Sunday, June 26, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - Blueberry Fingers & Pancakes

I went blueberry picking this week.  There is a wonderful U-Pick blueberry patch near me, so I took advantage of it.  I started at about 7AM and picked and picked.  Two hours later I had enough blueberries to last me into next year. (I hope!) I picked so many berries that my fingers turned blue! (Stained that is!)

Blueberries provide antioxidants, being high in vitamin C & K.  You can make all sorts of dishes with them - from sweet breads to teas.  I'll be freezing a number of them to use later in the year and I hope to share some of those recipes as I pull them out of the freezer.

Considering the 90 degree weather we are having at this time I felt I didn't want to heat the kitchen up by making anything in the oven.  So, I made Blueberry Pancakes.  Since I'm only making meals for myself I make enough to eat and enough to freeze and enjoy later.  Here is my recipe:
Farmer Boy Blueberry Pancakes
  • 1/2 Cup - All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 Cup - Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 Cup - Mix (Bisquick or the like)
  • 1/2 Cup - Buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon - Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons - Brown Sugar
  • 2/3 Cup - Half n Half
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon - Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon - Baking Soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon - Cinnamon (or crushed Anise seeds)
  • 1/4 Cup - Quick Oats
  • 1 Cup - Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Directions:  Sift together all the flours, sugar, powder, soda and salt into a large bowl.  Stir in the oats and spice.  Mix together the buttermilk, oil, half n half, buttermilk, and eggs & combine them with the dry mixture. (You may wish to add the blueberries at this time as well.)  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.  Heat your giddle over medium high heat with about a Tablespoon of oil.  (I use an Iron Skillet)  You'll know the griddle is ready when a drop of water pops when dropped in it.                                                                                                Drop by 1/4 Cup onto the griddle.  (You may add the blueberries on top of the pool at this time - about 5 per cake will do) Cook till you see bubbles form in the cake and the outsides start to firm up (about 1 - 2 minutes).  Turn and cook the other side about another minute.
Serve: with a dollop of butter and whatever topping you prefer.  (If you used cinnamon in the batter, you could use cinnamon sugar - maple sugar is also good - but any topping will do!

My guess is: Farmer Boy, (Almanzo) would have eaten a full stack of 10 or 11 of these! (See "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder for further reference.)

If you enjoy this recipe, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks.  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Farmer Boy Recipes"

This has much less to do with Laura's "Sweet Memories", but more to do with me - I'm hoping that some of my "Outside-of-the-shop" interests will hit home with you as well.

This, I hope, will be the first of what I'm going to call, "Farmer Boy Recipes".  I hope to post these from time to time and hope you'll give me some feedback each time.  They are "Farmer Boy" only in the sense that Almanzo, Laura's husband, inspired me to keep a legacy of raising farm-fresh vegetables.  So, I guess I'm considering myself to be his protege, so to speak. :)  Any way, living in a rural community affords the blessings of having farm-fresh items close at hand.  My meager veggie garden supplies me some of the ingredients for these recipes; others come from nearby farms.  I have one farm that grows organic veggies and another that has "Grass Finished" meats.  They both have organic eggs too!

This recipe I call, "Farmer Boy Green Bean Stir-Fry".  It is a very simple, country type recipe; one that even a novice stew chef could tackle!  But, remember Laura said we should appreciate those sweet, simple things in life that make it all worthwhile.  And anything with bacon fat can't be all bad!

Igredients: *
  • 2 cups fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup cubed, cooked ham
  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
Directions: Heat the bacon drippings in a small saucepan over low heat. Drop in the onions and ham, cover, stir occasionally while simmering for 3 - 4 minutes. (The onions should just begin to turn transluesent.)  Wash the green beans (they can be cut into smaller pieces if you wish), add them to the pan.  Cover, cook and stir on medium heat till the beans are a nice deep green and just softer than "snap stage". (about 5 minutes)
Serve: Plate this over rice or noodles. (I usually just eat it all by itself!)

*Please note: This is "My serving size", if you are cooking for more than one, you'll have to adjust this for the number.
You may find something similar to this recipe in some of Laura's collections or in other cookbooks, but I just threw this one together myself.  Hope you like it!  It's pretty much, "Green Beans 101".  You may wish to improve upon it or change it to make it your own - go for it!

"No one can become great who is not ready to take the opportunity when it comes."
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ridin' the Range Once More!

It took my entering a pie contest this year to get me back into the kitchen, cooking and baking again.  Winning a frist place ribbon wasn't what got me back - it was just my remembering how much I love baking and cooking; but winning was good too!  After I closed down my B&B about 4 years ago, I just didn't have the inspiration necessary, I guess.  Now I'm looking forward to sharing my culinary efforts (and occasional failures - let's call them, "Learning Experiences") with you.

My being a heterosexual, bachelor man it might surprise you that I have such interests.  But, as I see it, it's a matter of survival skills!  If I want to eat a good meal I have to make it!  I can't afford a personal chef and don't want to eat out all the time! (Even if I could afford to do that!)

I never had the professional training or schooling in a culinary academy.  But I've learned quite a bit hanging around those who have had that training.  I worked for a carterer in Chicago and had a close friend who owned a five star restaurant there as well.  But, like so many other skills in life, I read books and did "Hands-on" work.  Gee, isn't that what Julia Child did for the most part?  Don't get me wrong - I'm no Julia Child! But I try.  I learned a long time ago, "The only difference between a professional and an amateur is that one gets paid for what they do"!

When I find a recipe that I like, I rework it to make it into my own.  The Bible tells us that there is nothing new under the sun!  I have a hoard of cookbooks published and edited by world renown chefs and food critics; and it is amazing how many recipes repeat in those books under different authors!

So look for some of my ideas, recipes, hints, etc. in future postings.  They may not have anything to do with Laura's "Sweet Memories", my shop, but they will have something to do with me!
Till then - "Bon Appetite!" & "Giddap!"

"The way to success and a broad, beautiful outlook on life more often than not leads over obstacles and up a stiff climb before we reach the hilltop."
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Her "Pa"

Laura began her "Little House" series by including stories told to her by her father, Charles Ingalls.  From the manner in which she describes her father in the books, he must have been a role model for her.  And, from the writings we can surmise that they had a very close relationship.  She wrote how he gave her a pet name, (Half-pint) and how they worked together to do some important chores for the family.  His other daughters didn't have quite that close relationship with their father; although I'm sure he loved them as much.

As we approach our celebration of Fathers Day, I wonder how it would have been celebrated in Laura's family.  The holiday hadn't been established while she was a child.  If it had I think that it wold have been a grand day of celebration!  This is not to say that Laura didn't love her mother; she wrote about the times they had together as well.

The Bible tells us that we should honor our father and mother so that we will live a long, happy life.  How sad it would have been for Laura and her readers if she hadn't followed the Word of God!

Charles Ingalls was quite a man among men!  He was not only ambitious and provided fro his family, but he took it upon himself to help build the town of De Smet, almost single-handedly!  He was active in his church. He was a vital part of his community.  But a man is more than his accomplishments or obligations.  If Charles Ingalls hadn't established a loving relationship with his daughter his life would have never received the accolades as it does today.

Maybe your father is, or was, the same type of individual - or not.  Either way, I hope you honor him!  To honor doesn't necessarily mean that you shower him with gifts, or put him up on some pedestal of admiration.  But it does mean that you should live you life in such a way that would make him proud of you.  The Bible tells us that we should so honor our Heavenly Father through our good works.  Laura understood that; and I believe it is one reason that she wrote about her life.  She lived a life that honored, not only her earthly father, but also God.  Each of us has the obligation to so honor them in what we do and how we live.

Charles Ingalls was a husband, a father, a pillar of his community, a pioneer, a farmer, a good neighbor and friend, a wood worker, and a musician.  It was mainly through his music that he "spoke" to all the readers of Laura's books. He always had a tune to play on his fiddle.  And those tunes were always apporpriate to the moment.  In my shop I have music CD's of the music from Laura's books.  The collection is called, "The Pa's Fiddle Project".  The producers have brought Pa's music back to life!  These are professional musicians of our day, playing those 127 tunes mentioned in Laura's books.  These CD's make great souvenirs to visitors of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum, here in Mansfield, where you can see Pa's fiddle on display.  They would make a great Fathers Day gift too!  And they bring a new dimension to the writing in Laura's books.

If your father is living today I hope you are working to build a good relationship with him.  Some never know their father.  Some aren't even raised by a father.  And others have lost their father. But it is still their obligation to honor their Heavenly father.  I'm very impressed by those organizations which supply a male role model for fatherless children.  We need more men who will live honorable lives and mentor others.  But the greatest legacy a father can give is that he had developed a lasting memory with his children.  We need more men like Charles Ingalls!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Consider the Lilies (Luke 12:27)

God cares for us, (takes care of our needs) - if He can keep the Lilies in beauty, He can keep us that much more in our true beauty - not just in our outward appearance, but in our inner beauty as well.  If we have the faith to believe; we need not have worry or anxiety in our life.

Today, with our high unemployment and faltering economy, many are apt to worry and be anxious.  But if we look around us we see that circumstances are only temporary.   We shouldn't gauge our life on the circumstances at hand, or those things that are coming against us which are beyond our control.

The Lilies are a good example of how to live our life.  As the scripture tells us, they neither toil or spin, yet they grow and are clothed in all their natural beauty.  They don't concern themselves with how or when they will display themselves, they just do it!  But they don't waste more energy than they need to in doing it either.
In my yard, in front of my shop, I've counted close to 1,000 blooms this year.  Each plant has multiple stems.  On each stem are multiple blooms.  As the season progresses the blooms come forth, but not all at once.  In this way, they provide us with beauty for a long time.  In effect, they don't make a grand effort; spending a lot of energy all at once. By waiting for the right conditions or circumstances, they do what they were created to do.  And we can enjoy their beauty that much longer.

Much of the circumstances in our world are beyond our control.  The sooner you realize the difference between what actions you can take and stop trying to change those circumstances that you cannot, the sooner you will have peace. ("Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee." - Isaiah 26:3)

We should spend our time and energy doing those things which will help us individually and which might improve our economy.  It is my hope that you will share my life's ambition to do as Proverbs 3:5,6 advises. Bloom where you are planted and don't try to be something other than your own true self!

"The Man of the Place worried about the weather.  There were dry years in the Dakotas when we were beginning our life together.  I said at the time that thereafter I would sow the seed, but the Lord would give the increase, if there was any; for I could not do my work and that of Providence also."
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Prize-winning Pie

You may be wondering, "What does a heterosexual bachelor man know about baking?" - Well, this ain't my first rodeo!  When I had my B&B I did all the cooking and baking.  My favorite things to make for those breakfast goers were Blackberry Scones.  Since I've closed down my B&B I haven't done much in the kitchen.  It is always difficult to prepare a dish for just one person.  Since I don't do any entertaining in my home my meals have been simple, small, sparce and uninspiring.  Well, that's pretty dull!  So when it was announced that there would be a pie contest during our local spring festival, "Butter Day", I decided to get back into the kitchen.

I looked through my recipes and came up with an apple pie recipe that I felt I would want to share in the contest.  The two things I love best about an apple pie are the crust and the filling.  This one gives you lots of crust (I use lard!) and gobs of filling!

There are all sorts of secrets I've learned over my years of baking and I've found pies to always be a challenge - even knowing those secrets!  So I knew I had my work cut out for me, if I wanted to be a contender in a contest.

It is very important to choose the best apples for your pie.  In the days when I had an orchard there was no question - just use what I grew!  But now I had to make a choice.  I've made and tasted pies over a lifetime that were: soggy, some were tart, some were sour or sweet, others tasted like they used rotten apples!   For this pie I chose fresh Fuji and Gala varieties. (Not dried apples, like Ma Ingalls did out of necessity!)  This combination gives you a mild sweet-tart flavoring.  I kept the rest of the filling simple, with few spices, to let the apples be the star.

On the other side of a pie contest sits the panel of judges, their criteria, their judging skills and the field of competitors.  When you enter a pie contest you never know what you'll be up against!  This is also the case with a double-crusted pie!  Like Forest Gump said of a box of chocolates and life, "You never know what you'll get!"

I don't know why my pie finished in the place it did - maybe it was just my time!  But I was happy with what I produced and glad to have my work honored.  I don't know if I'll ever enter another pie contest or not - maybe quitting while you are ahead is the safest and most honorable thing to do.  I don't feel that I'd like to make a career out of pie making, but at least this got me back into the kitchen!  Maybe I'll spend more time in there - this was satisfying! 

A few things I've learned from my years of baking are these:
  • Don't let anyone tell you that you won't succeed!
  • Don't take yourself too seriously - even Julia Child had her bad days!
  • Don't take the work too seriously - if you make a mess with the flour - get over it, it will clean up!
  • Don't take the finished product too seriously - don't get discouraged - if at first you don't succeed, try again.
  • If you have disasters, remember there is a difference between humility and being humbled.  Practice this phrase, "It's not burnt, just a little over-cooked."
I don't know if Laura had entered any baking contests when she lived in Mansfield.  Butter Day is a festival that honors our dairy industry.  We used to have a number of dairy farms around Mansfield, but most of them are gone now.   Mansfield had three creameries when Butter Day was first established in 1953.  We still celebrate with this festival, but the farmers couldn't keep up with the larger dairies and fell by the wayside.  I'd like to see them come back - maybe today's economy will encourage some to get back into it - I hope so!  I don't believe that the entrepreneural spirit is dead; just hidden, waiting for the perfect moment to re-emerge!  I long for, "The good old days"!

"Cooperation is the keynote of affairs today, and our lives seem to be governed mostly by the advice of experts.  But the more we think for ourselves, the less we shall need advice; and high-priced experts would not need to waste... our money in telling us things we should think out for ourselves."
Laura Inalls Wilder