Wonton Soup

 

Wonton soup is one of my favorite comfort foods.  I think of it as Asian chicken noodle soup, and it’s what I want on those rare occasions when I’m sick. However, I eat it a lot, sick or not. Because I feel like crap on toast when I’m sick, I freeze trays of wontons, as well as containers of broth made from my old stewing hens, so soup can happen with minimal effort.  Everyone knows good old chicken soup is just what’s needed for a cold, but how much better, when you throw in garlic and ginger?

The recipe I give will make approximately 40-50 wontons. This is more than you will need to make a batch of soup. Freeze what you don’t use for later. The wontons can be added to the cooking broth fresh or frozen.

 

 

Wontons
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 or 3 cloves finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
1 package wonton wrappers

Combine ground pork, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil, and mix well.  Fold using any number of different folds. I use a tortellini fold, because it’s an easy fold that allows me to crank out a batch of 100 quickly. Place a small amount of pork mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper. Moisten outside edges of the wrapper with a finger dipped in water. Fold in half to form a triangle, and press the moistened edges together to seal. Pull the outside corners of the triangle towards the middle. Moisten one of the corners with a little water, and press the corners together, and then flip the main part of the wonton over the top of your thumb while pinching the corners together, as pictured.

 

 

Wonton Soup
1 quart (32 ounces) chicken broth
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 or 3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 to 2 cups chopped bok choy greens and stems
Salt to taste

To make the soup, place the broth, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce in your soup pot, and bring up to a gentle boil.  Add your wontons to the broth (fresh or frozen), and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add chopped bok choy to the soup, and take it off the heat. The heat of the soup will wilt the greens, but they will still maintain a satisfying crunch.

This is a versatile recipe. You can use more or less broth and greens as you like.  I prefer more greens and load it up with wontons.

 

Handmade Vs. The Wal-Mart Mentality

 

cowl

 

I finished knitting up a cowl for myself, and had uploaded this picture to my facebook page, offering to make another for the low, low price of $75.  It resulted in a conversation between a couple of my knitting friends.

convo

 

The timing of the conversation coincided with my train of thought while working on a pair of fingerless mitts.  I no longer depend on income gained from handmade items.  However, I do make a living selling supplies to those who earn a living selling handmade items.  I’m very familiar with both ends of the stick.

When I first went into the handcrafted soap and personal care products business 15 years ago, the running rate for a 4 ounce bar of handmade soap was approximately $4-5 a bar.  These days, the cost of raw materials has more than doubled, but I still see some of my long time customers selling bars for nearly the same price, and it breaks my heart.  I’ll never forget an old farm wife stopping at my soap booth, looking longingly at the selection I had on display.  She told me she really wanted to buy some, but if she did she would have to hide it.  When I asked her why, she told me her husband would blow a gasket over the price, when she could buy a 10 pack of ivory soap for $2.

If I had a nickel for every person who has taken a look at one of my handmade items, and said, “That’s so cool! You should really sell your ________.  If you do, I’ll be your first customer!”,  I’d be a wealthy woman.  The cold hard truth is that makers and artisans usually struggle to get a fair price for their work. I have tried to sell some of my handmade items, and guess what?  Most of the people who told me they would buy never have.  The subject of pricing among my maker and artist friends is a hot topic. It’s not a subject taken lightly, and most agonize over it.

I have a question for you.  How much do you earn for putting in a 12 hour shift at your job?  I’m going to use my fingerless mitts as an example, although they are a gift, and not for sale. They are rather complicated, and the pair will take me approximately 12 hours to complete. If I were to charge $10 an hour for my time and the cost of the yarn, the mitts should have a minimum price tag of $120! Needless to say, I’m probably never going to use this particular pattern for selling.

 

 

 

Beetroot & Feta Salad

winter-harvest

Winter gardening here in Northeastern Indiana has been more fun than usual this year, thanks to an unseasonably long and warm fall. One of the tricks of maintaining a winter garden in our northern climate is careful planning so that plants are well enough established to hold well in cold weather. This year, it’s been mild enough that I haven’t had to cover anything with mulch or protective row covers. This morning’s harvest, pictured above, came out of the garden in beautiful shape.  As the colder weather of December and January move in, things won’t look quite so vibrant, but will still be perfectly good for the kitchen.

Lunch today was beetroot and feta salad, close to the last one I’ll have.  I should have planted an additional row of beets, because I’ve only got enough left for one more meal. I didn’t spend much time trying to get a picture, because I was hungry.  I’ve noticed a lot of beetroot salad pictures online, and want to know how they manage to keep their feta perfectly white?  Beetroot is messy, and colors everything it comes in contact with. I’ve got the purple fingers to prove it.

beetroot-feta-salad

 

I’m not going to give exact amounts, because I only ever make this to serve one.  My husband hates both beets and feta. You can’t really mess this one up, because the ingredients are so simple.

Beetroot & Feta Salad with Parsley
A few beetroots, boiled, peeled, and cubed (about 1 1/2 cup per serving)
A big handful of parsley, chopped
Feta, cubed or crumbled
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil, amount equal to lemon juice
A couple of garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste

The easiest way to cook beetroot is with the skin still on. Trim the tops and bottoms, and boil them whole until fork tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let them sit in the pan with cold water, and they will be easier to handle.  Slip the skins off and cube.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper into a vinaigrette.

Combine beetroot, feta, and parsley. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

No, I Haven’t Quit My Day Job

cream-soap

 

Apparently, a little clarification is needed. Yes, some of my friends and family have been wondering about seeing me peddle wares on Facebook and Instagram. No, I have not closed up my 9 to 5 business of the last 15 years.

Here’s the deal.  I like to make stuff. The problem is I make more stuff than Bart and I can use.  You only need so many scarves, which is a problem when you’d like to keep knitting, but you’re hooked on high-end handspun, hand dyed, really super expensive art yarn made by your dealer talented friend in Iowa.  Then there’s soap.  I usually make batches of soap that result in about 14 bars, and I don’t like to limit myself to just one scent.  Are the 5-10 different bars of soap in my shower really necessary? Bart produces gallons of maple syrup each spring, and it’s more than we can eat by ourselves, so we get rid of some of it.  I collect herbs and spices like some women collect shoes and purses. I grow them, buy them, pickle, infuse, and smoke them.  No, no!  Not that kind of smoke!  As in, I put them in the smoker with wood chips, and make them taste smoky. The list of stuff I make is mind numbing. It’s getting out of control, but I really don’t want to stop.

Anyway, I decided the solution was to revamp my old Etsy store, and try to sell my surplus, so I can justify continuing to make more stuff.  I hope it works, because I really don’t want to curb my hobbies. You can find a tab for the Etsy store at the top of the page. I’ve got more stuff to list, but I still need to take pictures.  Mulled maple syrup will be added shortly.

So, yeah, to answer the question, I still have my day job.

 

scarf-1

Ancho Chili Powder – Seed to Jar

poblano-powder

 

Technically, this is easy peasy. Throw dried ancho in a grinder and pulverize. Viola! Chili powder! I hope I never have to resort to store-bought powder again.  I wish you could smell it! It has a wonderfully fruity pepper aroma, like nothing I’ve ever found in a store.  I opened the grinder, took a big sniff, and immediately did this weird sneezy cough thing.  There is so much more going on in this simple powder than I could have imagined.

As far as easy peasy goes, I’ve decided to give myself a little more credit. This was a project that took some time, patience, and a little elbow grease.  I chose an heirloom poblano seed last winter, and planted the seeds back in early March.

 

sprout

 

pepper-seedlings

 

At the end of April, I turned over a cover crop of rye and vetch in my raised beds.  I hand dig all 4 of my raised beds, and by the time the cover crop had decomposed into the soil enough that I could plant, I had dug each bed a total of 3 times.  It’s a great way to start getting back into shape in the spring, and I’m usually a little sore at first. By mid May, I had transplanted the poblano pepper seedlings in the ground.

 

cover-digging

 

By the beginning of August, I was picking and roasting green chilis for the freezer

 

poblanos

 

Here I am in September, and the peppers have finally ripened to a beautiful chocolate.

 

anchos

 

This past weekend, I halved and seeded them, and put them in my dehydrator. After a couple of days, they were shriveled, semi-crisp, and almost black.

 

polanos-dried

 

I’ll admit, I had my doubts when I put them in the grinder.  Who would have believed the powder would come out looking like this? One smell. One taste.  THIS is why I bother to do so much of what I do. This is what knowing where my food comes from is all about.  Now, whenever I cook something using this powder, I’ll be reminded of 7 months, from seed to jar, of what’s involved in producing a simple staple spice I keep in my cupboard.

 

poblano-powder

 

Now that I’ve finished this post, I’m off to use my spectacular ancho powder to make up a batch of my Tex-Mex blend.

 

taco-seasoning

Food Traditions

harvest

This isn’t exactly a rant.  More random musings from the garden and kitchen. Plus, I’m writing this more for the sake of journaling, than thinking anyone is going to benefit from anything I have to say.  It’s a very hot muggy day, and I’m trudging back and forth between the garden and kitchen, taking breaks to cool off while I finish planting my fall garden – peas, beets, carrots, spinach, pak choy, lettuce, cabbage.  If I don’t finish planting this week, it’s going to be too late.

It always feels a little strange to be planting at the same time I’m dealing with the glut of a late summer garden.  I’ve got a bumper crop of poblano peppers and eggplant this year.  Once it cools off this evening, I’ll fire up the grill and get the peppers charred, and will work till bedtime getting them peeled, seeded, packaged, and in the freezer. This is just the first batch. There are more left on the plants than the number I picked this morning.

poblanos

Anyway, back to my musings. While I’m taking my indoor breaks from the garden, I’m going through old cookbooks and a few articles, planning a couple of new ways to preserve my red roasting peppers and eggplant.  As I’m reading about making Serbian Ajvar, I find myself comparing my new fangled American preserving to Old World  preservation. Old food traditions exert a strong pull on me.

As much as I love modern conveniences and technology, my heart thrills to explore old forgotten, labor intensive methods of food preparation.  I prefer my mortar and pestle to my food processor, my big chef’s knife to about any gadget you can name, and I never recoil from a recipe that calls for 30 minutes of slow heat and stirring, or something that requires several stages of preparation over a period of days, or even weeks.

Another aspect of old traditions that appeals to me is community.  My time spent preparing my harvest is solitary, and I know it can’t be helped, but something inside me screams that this isn’t right!  This isn’t the way it should be done.  Historically, communities have come together to harvest and prepare the fruits of their labor. Grandmothers, mothers, and daughters, passing down recipes and methods from one generation to another, sitting together talking, sharing stories and wisdom as they snap, peel, chop and grind.

I’m conflicted. Sometimes I think I’d give up this world I live in for an older way.  And I don’t mean that in a “cranky-old-lady-reminiscing-about-the-good-old-days-like-they-were-better” kind of way. I think  something’s been lost that we’ll never be able to get back.  But, this is the world I’ve been given, so I’ll just keep learning what I can about old methods, and choosing to do things the hard way.

A Cautionary Tale

latch

 

It’s been a while since I’ve felt like writing. Life is messy, and sometimes blogging falls by the wayside.  This morning I feel like writing, because the house is quite, I have no one to talk to, and I just scared the crap out of myself.

My husband, Bart, was out till the wee hours of the morning bowfishing with our son, Kuyler, who came home to spend some time with his dad on Father’s Day.  They will be sleeping in quite late today.

I was up bright and early with the sun, and went out to do my morning chores in the barn. While I was feeding chicks and changing water in the brooder, I pulled the door closed behind me, so no chicks would get out. I stood there looking at the door feeling stunned.

I never pull the brooder door completely shut, because there’s a latch on the outside. It’s a very sturdily built cage about 4’x10′, about 6′ tall, enclosed with 1/2″ hardware cloth.  I was locked inside with 25 baby chickens!

I had no idea when the guys would be waking up. And even when they did wake up, they weren’t going to be looking for me, because I’m always off doing my own thing.  I don’t carry my cell phone around the farm with me, so it was in its usual place on my desk in my office.

I stood there in my cage, contemplating several hours keeping company with the chickens. I’m not sure I can describe those first few minutes while I was still absorbing my situation, before my head started working out possible solutions.

 

brooder

 

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of trying to kick out the hardware cloth. When Bart builds something, it doesn’t come apart easily, and the hardware cloth wasn’t simply stapled in place, but fastened with heavy-duty U nails.  Then I noticed the piece of wire I use to hold a gate shut (pictured on the right hand side of the cage).  The wire is threaded through the hardware cloth, and then wrapped around the wire of the gate. I have the gate in place to prevent the hens from trying to nest in that corner.

It took me about 10 minutes, but I was able to pull the wire through, and then use it to jimmy the outside latch.  For a while, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull it off.

The moral of this story?  I’m still thinking about it.  I have looped a piece of wire through the latch, and run it inside the cage for now.

 

latch

Fire Cider – A Traditional Herbal Remedy

fire cider

 

Fire cider is a mainstay in my herbal arsenal against winter crud. I toss back a shot glass of this immune system boosting tonic every day.  On those occasions when I can tell my immune system is messing around with a bug, I tend to toss back more than one shot a day.  Made with raw vinegar, honey, and pungent herbs and spices, it’s a spicy, tangy, savory, sweet and sour concoction that’s tasty, as well as good for you.

A couple of points of interest, if you’re like me, and like more than less information (otherwise, just skip the next few paragraphs to the recipe below):

Earlier this year, the University of Nottingham in the UK published an interesting experiment. They reproduced an ancient medieval remedy containing ingredients similar to those used today in fire cider – garlic, onion, wine. Wine in medieval times tended towards the sour, acidic end, and wasn’t what we are accustomed to in modern times. The microbiologists conducting the experiment were “genuinely amazed” by the results, and many modern folk herbalists felt vindicated.

Also of interest, is an unfolding legal drama surrounding fire cider.  In a nut shell, three small business owners, all herb farmers, have been sued by Shire City Herbals over the use the name “Fire Cider”. If you read about the background of fire cider, you’ll understand why herbalists (myself and my business included) have rallied in support of the three women being sued. Back in 2004, my business was served a cease and desist over an herb I was selling as a soap making additive. Not in a financial position to be a part of a class action lawsuit taking place surrounding the herb, I quit selling it.  I’m happy to say, the class action lawsuit was won, and the name “rooibos” is now public domain.  As a long-standing traditional remedy, I hope fire cider will enjoy the same outcome.

It’s not uncommon for herbalists to add their own twist, and there seem to be as many recipes as there are herbalists. The basics we all seem to stick with are garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, vinegar, and honey. Many add hot peppers.

I’ve put a few twists of my own on the recipe.  I use my own homemade raw kombucha vinegar in place of cider vinegar. For a little brightening flavor zing I like to add lemon slices. I’m dealing with osteoarthritis, so I’ve added turmeric for its many health benefits. I also throw in two or three astragalus root slices. Astragalus is effective against viral infections, helps boost the production of white blood cells, and promotes interferon production in the body.

I don’t measure, and honestly, I don’t think it matters for a recipe like this. I tend to throw something like equal-ish amounts of the onion, garlic, horseradish, and ginger into a big jar.

Fire Cider
Onion
Garlic
Horseradish root
Ginger root

Optional Ingredients:
1 or 2 cayenne or other hot peppers
1 or 2 tablespoons turmeric powder (or chopped root, if it’s available to you)
1 or 2 sliced lemons
2 or 3 astragalus root slices

Raw apple cider vinegar
Raw honey

Peel and chop onion, garlic, horseradish, and ginger.  Place in an appropriate sized jar. I make mine in a gallon jar.  Add optional ingredients.  Add enough vinegar to cover ingredients by 3 or 4 inches.  Cover with a non-reactive lid (line metal lid with plastic wrap), and let the whole mess sit for about 4 weeks. Strain and mix the resulting liquid with honey to taste.

fire-cider

 

 

A Garden of Another Kind

 

Most years, these would just be a couple of big boxes of dirt where a couple of different women are going to plant some stuff.  However, this year they mean something special to me.  This one is located in a community garden in Utah, where my daughter-in-law, Britni, is learning to garden for the first time in her life.

 

brits-raised-bed

 

This one is located at my place in Indiana, where I will be gardening yet again, as I have been since I was Britni’s age.  Yes, I know, I need to mow my grass.  Deal with it.

 

raised bed

 

She and I both turned the soil in our cross-country gardens today, and chatted with each other online and shared pictures afterwards. We are going to be sore together as we flex muscles we haven’t used much over the winter.  Britni has been asking me gardening questions over the last couple of months, and we’ve had conversations about what we were looking at in our seed catalogs, and how to prep soil. We’ve talked about worms, compost, and how to support tomatoes in small spaces.  Neither of my boys showed any interest in my passion for growing things, and I’ve always been OK with that.  However,  it wasn’t until Britni sent me the picture of her efforts today that I realized how much I’ve always wanted to be able to share and pass on what I’ve learned over the years. So, as Britni plants her first seeds this spring, I think of what Gertrude Jekyll said, “The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but grows to the enduring happiness that the love of gardening gives.”

 

Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby

Yeah, I know, the internet doesn’t need another Dutch Baby recipe, but I’m doing it anyway.  I like to make a Dutch Baby for Sunday brunch, usually paired with some sort of quiche.  On this particular Sunday, it was served with fried apples and a bacon and leek quiche. As usual in the winter time, the chickens have slowed down on egg production.  However, thanks to a goose who decided to lay eggs all winter long (this is not the norm), I’ve had no shortage of eggs, and a Dutch Baby is a good way to use up some of the glut.  I’ve scaled back my recipe to serve 2-4 people, from the original recipe which was baked in my huge 12″ cast iron skillet.

Dutch Baby
3 eggs (or 1 goose egg)
1/2 cup flour
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

Pre-heat oven to 375°F.  Whisk eggs, flour, salt, cinnamon, milk and vanilla together. Melt butter in preheated oven in an 8-9 inch cast iron skillet, taking care not to burn the butter.  I’ve been told that it can also be baked in a baking dish, but I’ve never done it, so can’t vouch for results.  Pour batter into the pan with the butter and return to the oven.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until it has climbed the sides of the pan and the edges are browned and crisped, and the center is no longer moist.

Fill the Dutch Baby with your filling of choice.   My fried apple filling is simply sliced apples fried/softened in butter, and finished off with a couple of squeezes of fresh lemon juice, and brown sugar or maple syrup to taste.

Fillings can be sweet or savory.  I’ve been thinking about trying a cream cheese filling, and I’d also like to try some sort of herbed mushroom-green onion filling. The possibilities are limitless: caramelized onions and Swiss cheese, wilted arugula and goat cheese, avocado-tomato-cilantro. I could even see going into something a little heftier and filling it with one of my favorite meat salads (think thinly sliced lamb and greens with a cumin vinaigrette), or something chili relleno or chicken enchillada-ish. Ooo-ooo!! I just thought of something else … in the spring when I go foraging …… ramps and morels!