Saturday, October 31, 2009

Deja Vu all over again!!

OK -- so I'm stealing a line!! I've been stealing soap boxes for quite a while! And now, I've done both!!!

So if you want to catch my latest rantings and ravings ......... this time on children's cereals ................ check out today's post on Blog for Iowa.

I am writing on food and sustainable agriculture issues for Blog for Iowa. Stop by -- say hi!! I like company.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I don't like the looks of this!

This was the sky as I looked to the north this morning. It was after 7:30.

A little creepy, don't you think?

I just know there are flying monkeys out there............................

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keeping me off the Streets

The 2009 farming season at Miss Eff's is history. Toast ..... as we would say. Actually, I would say "Good riddance!"

What an unbelievable year! Who knew you could get so much rain in Iowa??? And no heat. Seriously, what is Iowa without at least one 99 degree day with 98% humidity? No steam bath to open my facial pores???? No days that you take three cool showers just to feel human???

Selling flowers is done. No picnics in the corn-zebo. I haven't had tablecloths on the clothesline for a month now! The weeds remain but what else is new?

So what's ol' Miss Eff to do with her time?????

After all, she could get into a lot of trouble with too much time on her hands!! There is Don's Pub and all. (For the Donahue-novices out there, Don's Pub is the local-yokel hang-out. They do make a heck of a pork-chop sandwich. The closest thing to a vegetable at Don's is the pickle on the sandwiches and the home-fries. It is also the home of the Scott County Wrestling Federation. Do I have to say any more?????)

Well -- I am teaching some adult education classes for Scott Community College and this is my shameless plug for them.

November 9 -- Jellies and Jams -- jams that are made from ingredients easily found at the grocery store, including my favorite apple pie jam!

November 23 -- Gifts from your kitchen -- ice cream toppings

December 8 -- Pizza!! Pizza!! -- I am really excited about this one. We will be making pizza crusts in class but we are also making mozzarella cheese. So if you ever wanted to try your hand at making cheese .... this is the place.

January 12 -- A Healthy Start for Infants and Preschoolers -- homemade baby food and preschooler snacks.

January 19 -- Healthy Eating for Less --- this is another class that I am super-excited about. We will talk about the way to cut your grocery bill and eat healthier. I need my friend Maggie there!!! But everyone says it costs too much to eat real food. So we will discuss how to cut the grocery bill by 30%. Takes some planning.... may take some work.... but it is more than possible!

And finally ...........

January 26 -- Home-grown produce soups -- Same class that I taught at Nursery School last spring. Three great soups that are made with items that typically grown and preserved from the garden.

So that's the line-up. Sign up for a class. Get to meet Honey. (Yes, he does exist!!!) And save Miss Eff from a life on the streets. OK -- if truth be know --- Save Donahue from Miss Eff and a future in the police blog of the North Scott Press.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ups, Downs and Moments of Brilliance!

See that number 1 on the balloons? That was from the winning trivia table. And who was sitting at that table?? YES!!!! It would be our friends, Honey and me!

Who knew??? Well, obviously, US!!

No, not really. Our church was having a fundraiser for Creative Christmas with a trivia night. Hmmm? I used to be pretty good at trivia........... before the estrogen started seeping out of the brain. (If this hasn't happened to you yet .... it will!! Be warned and learn to write everything down!!)

So I talk to my friends Debbie and Jim --- Debbie was salutatorian in our high school class so my ignorance would be saved by her brilliance!! Then they drafted a friend, Diane who is in the medical field. Always a plus in trivia!! And we got our wine club friends David and Carole to join us. David is an IT guy and Carole was a 3rd grade teacher.

So we may not have been smarter than a 5th grader but we knew would survive the 3rd grade stuff!!!

We started out slow ..... then tied for 3rd place. Then we had 3rd place by ourselves and slowly crept up. I think we had the 1st place balloons on the last 2 rounds.

Ya know .... we really remembered the important stuff. And we were fueled by chocolate. It works every time!

We knew the jingle for Slinky. We knew how many correct answers there would be in a Jeopardy game. I remembered (after an agonizing few moments) who shot J.R. Carole remember the opening paragraph to Bambi. And Debbie remembered the author of Winds of War. And we all could hum the theme from Mission Impossible. And we obnoxiously would "do-do-do" the theme from Final Jeopardy. Yea .... those people up front that were singing it ..... that would be us.

But they didn't ask who was the first baseball commissioner. I soooo know that answer. Kennasaw Mountain Landis. I have wanted to use that answer for years!!! No such luck. But I did know that Don Larson pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series against ............. the Brooklyn Dodgers. I was ........... wasn't even born yet!!!!! Yea.... if I say it with authority, will you believe that??????

It really was a fun Friday evening.

Then on to Saturday!! The flu has hit one of our local college campuses. My friend Greenhouse Gwen needed a fill-in for daughter Alexa, to sell breads and cinnamon rolls and pumpkin bars at the Farmers' Market on Saturday morning.

I had to be at the market in Davenport (roughly 16 miles away) at 7 am ............. and be perky and nice. And it was dark. I hate dark!!! I can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 am ..... if it is light. But dark .... not so much!!!

That is the reason I own a U-pick!!!

I was trying to sell breads to people that looked at me and said ..... "You aren't the cute young blonde that's usually here?????" What was the first clue ..... the wrinkles or the gray hair or the ever-expanding butt????

A friendly face stopped by and said, "I didn't know you were going to be here! I was in Northern Minnesota and got something for you." I thought how sweet and she left.

A few minutes later, my loyal blog reader came back with this...........
Three pounds of the most beautiful wild rice I have seen in decades!!!!! With Merry Christmas wishes and the challenge of coming up with some great recipes, ME left --- and I am still trying to find the right words to say Thank You!!!!

This is some awesome wild rice (which is not rice at all but the seed from a grass). My grandparents would go to Northern Minnesota to fish every year and would return with wild rice and some great cheese. And this was the type of rice they would bring back. Such beautiful long grain. I am thrilled!!! And searching for some inspiration! When it comes -- the recipe will be posted!!!!

In down news .....
Ewwwww! This is the light fixture over my sink. I hate these things. They have attacked us later than usual this year. Asian Beetles.......... no, they are not cute little lady bugs. Many of you have blogged about them so I won't say much but ........... iccckkkk!!!!!!

And in other down news........ we lost our kitten, Down. We had Up, Down and Charmed -- all tabby males born on May 12th (I got chicks, ducklings and kittens ... all on the same day) Nothing seemed to be wrong with Down -- none of the usual symptoms. He just seemed to be a little smaller than his brothers.

After Honey buried him, he said ......... "That's what I hate about having pets." Yea .... I know. Me, too. Me, too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Faith, Farming and Food

Every farmer I know is a spiritual person. They may not be deeply religious...... but they have an underlying faith and trust in God. To farm... is to have the joy of really connecting with God's green earth. We see his creation around us and we marvel as a tiny seed breaks through the hard dry soil and becomes the incredible vegetable that it might be.

I have a deep conviction that food should be eaten as God wanted it eaten. Not as Cargill or ADM would prefer. No added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. (Seriously, where can that possibly be considered natural???) No added fats or doused heavily with salts and preservatives.

Just food!

And my faith in that food and the way I look at food is sometimes, shaken. I may be standing in the check-out aisle of the grocery store (and yes, I do go to the grocery store!) and I spot them. Yep -- a contestant for the new reality game show that I want to create. Extreme Grocery Cart Make-over!

You have seen the carts! Three cases of Mountain Dew, 5 frozen pizzas, 8 frozen dinners, a jar of Cheese-Whiz and the entire Frito-Lay line-up!! And yea, a box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies ...... cuz ya know, oatmeal helps lower cholesterol levels!

I want to toss it all out and make them stand in the corner of the produce section till they understand what they are doing to their bodies! And their insurance costs. (You knew, I would get health care reform in here somehow!!!)

And I cringe........... and I know their childrens' lifespan has been shortened by food built in a chem lab rather than grown in God's good garden. And I wonder .... are farmers and foodies the only ones that care???

Then I get an email like this ......................

I am looking to buy from local farms. I would like to find someone to sell me raw milk, fresh eggs, and meat from animals that have not been fed grain. I will consider any location up to an hour drive from the Moline airport. Thanks so much.

Yes!! .......... we are making a difference!

So dear friends, keep on walking that walk! I know its the end of what most of us consider --- gardening season ..... but we have an incredible opportunity with indoor farmers markets to get great fresh seasonal foods. We have sources like Buy Fresh-Buy Local and Local Harvest that can connect us to local fruits, veggies, meats, eggs and cheese.

And let's keep talking the talk and work on expanding these options along with exciting new prospects like more community gardens and local food co-ops.

And what can you do???? You can eat ..... real food. No preservatives. No additives. Simple. Delicious. Real.

Domestic Bliss..........

Ok -- so I have been ranting a lot lately. No -- the meds are working fine, thank you. There just seems to be a lot going on that raises Miss Eff's hackles.

I am a little calmer today so ......... wanna see what I have been doing???

Socktoberfest is going well. I am done with pair of socks number 3. All wool -- hand spun, hand-dyed by Argyle Fiber Mill. What a quick knit! I did them on size 5 needles. After always doing socks on size 1-2, size 5 seemed like heaven!!

Now back to my teeny tiny needles......... this pair is also been a quick knit. I like doing very simple socks when I am using a self-striping yarn. So I have really whipped through this pair. I should finish socks number 4 by the end of the weekend. There is no challenge with these .... but challenge isn't all its cracked up to be! And besides, I don't call my knitting needles "sanity sticks" for nothing!!!

I have put myself on a yarn diet. No more yarn. So I am doing nothing but finishing projects and using up existing stash. Except I did order another 3 skeins of yarn from Sheepie Neighbor. Yea .... I know. I said I was going to make socks out of Rocky's yarn. Change of plan. Still don't know what I am going to do....... but Rocky deserves better treatment.

And speaking of Sheepie Neighbor ..... looks like the girls in the neighborhood are in for a rockin' good time! The rent-a-rams are good-lookin' guys! Stud muffins, we might say!!! But I think Ferdie should have a home up the road a bit........... Honey??????? (So far Eldest Daughter and I have not been able to talk him into a dog. I'm thinkin' a fiber pet may be a tougher sell!)

I have been doing some preserving........ I did 15 lbs of apples the other day and made maple applesauce in my roaster. That is the way to cook apples!

Maple Applesauce Recipe

5 pounds apples, cored and cut into 8 wedges

1/2 cup apple cider or natural apple juice

1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup, depending on the tartness of the apples, Grade B recommended for strongest flavor

4 whole cinnamon sticks
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
2. In the large roasting pan, toss the apples with the cider and maple syrup, then lay the cinnamon sticks around in the apples. Roast until the apples are very soft and mash easily, 30 to 45 minutes.
3. Remove the cinnamon sticks. If you left the peels on, mash the apples slightly with a potato masher, then run them through the food mill. If you peeled the apples before roasting, then process the cooked apples in a food processor. Applesauce is finished, just set aside to cool, then put into containers and refrigerate or freeze. If you want to can it .... fill to a 1/2" head space and place in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
15 pounds of apples yielded 11 pints of applesauce. This has a really nice mellow flavor and is not overly sweet.

And in other news........ I have been asked to write a column on food and agricultural concerns for Blog for Iowa. Blog for Iowa is a progressive blog .... if you are a fan of Rush Limbaugh, don't bother going there. I will just piss you off! I am a blue-dog democrat -- I like progressive social action, yet I think a balanced budget is nice. I have this mission to tell our concerns from down on the farm .... and it is giving me a voice and I am going to use it.

So if anyone sees a tasty little morsel of news about food issues....... drop me a link to cmlafrenz (at) netins (dot) net. And drop in and read my posts ..... it will probably be there on the 1st and the 15th of every month.

That's all the domestic bliss I can bear to stand for one day! I'll rant some more tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Turning wine into water...........

Last week, the World Food Prize was awarded in Des Moines to Gabisa Ejeta for his development of a drought-resistant variety of sorghum. Sorghum is a major food source in the Sudan and drought conditions have left millions of people starving for decades.

We have all heard stories about starving people throughout the world. How many times have our mothers told us about the starving children in China? But we think ..... "What can I do? Send this cold slice of pizza?"

After all, we are not Bill Gates.

A major draw-back to agricultural success in Africa is the lack of a water delivery system. Wells. Ya can't grow much when you are carrying water in jugs on your shoulders for several miles.

In 2005, we had a drought in eastern Iowa. I could show you pictures of very crunchy brown grass --- in June. My irrigation system is based on the collection of rainwater. I can store 3200 gallons of water. But if it doesn't rain -- I have no water stored.

Our old well couldn't handle the water needs of my gardens. So every day, for 10 weeks, Honey hauled 200 gallons of water a day from town. And the next day, I would haul out 300 feet of hose and water another section of the cutting gardens. All the time .... I was hoping we could get the new well installed ASAP!!!

We had the means to drill a new well. And we did. Cuz I wasn't ever going to go thru that again!!!

But in Africa, 4500 mothers a day bury their children because they don't have clean fresh water. 4500! They have no wells.

A small group of amazing women in eastern Iowa have found that fact to be UNACCEPTABLE!
They formed Water 4 Christmas and in a very short time, they have raised $100,000 for Charity Water

Charity Water administers the construction of the wells. Scott Harrison (president and founder) has also found these women amazing! Harrison is coming to Iowa to inspire them and us to do more. And one of these incredibly generous and giving women is my friend Leslie. Leslie has organized a fund-raising event that needs your help.

So what can you do?? You can join me and drink wine. I know!! One of my favorite things to do!! How hard can that be???

Wine to Water Event

Saturday, November 21st, 7–10 p.m.

3rd floor, Redstone Bldg., Davenport

Wine Tasting :: Dessert :: Live Music by

Lojo Russo :: Andrew Landers Project

8 p.m. presentation by Scott Harrison,

founder of charity: water

$20 donation to charity: water

at the door.

This will be a fun and inspiring evening. Wine --- Music --- Yummy homemade desserts. Yea ... we are talkin' chocolate!!! How do I know?? I will be spending my Friday, helping create mouth-watering desserts for the event. Want to join me in a baking frenzy?? We could use your help... drop me an email and I will get it to Leslie and we will have you join in the fun!

Now back to the serious business ....... water is agriculture and agriculture is food. Twenty dollars can get water to an individual for 20 years!!! We can save thousands of people with very small donations. Let's give the world the means to farm. Then, they can feed themselves and their communities.

I'm not Bill Gates. But I can make a difference. And so can you. Join Leslie and her friends and drink a glass of wine. You can turn it into water.

Monday, October 19, 2009

10 things you don't know about me!!!

It's Monday .... my flowers are frozen and I am free at last!! I love planting in April but the first frost brings a sense of freedom unknown in July!

So I'm going to bore you to death with totally un-important stuff about my life! Can't say you weren't warned.

1) I love Cheerios. Plain old Cheerios. No Honey-Nut. No Multi-Grain. Plain old Cheerios. And I like them soggy. With raisins.

2) I am very short. The doctor told me that I should reach 5 feet. I thought he meant in height and not width.

3) My first dog was a border collie named Cindy. Cindy is also the name of my college roommate and one of my very best friends. Coincidence? I think not.

4) I think men in plaid flannel shirts and blue jeans are very sexy. Therefore, I find This Old House to be as good as any erotic movie. Norm Abrams is a hunk.

5) I hate being called "Cathleen". I know its my name but it doesn't fit. I'm Clink, Clinker or Cathy. "Cathleen" is what my mother called me when I was in trouble. I heard it a lot. Please call me something else!

6) If I am in a crowded room ...... I will be found by my laughter.

7) My favorite outfit is a pair of ratty jeans, a worn cashmere sweater and boots.

8) I won an Ethan Allen Young Decorating Contest when I was 15. You couldn't tell it now by looking at my house.

9) Our eldest daughter Jill picked me out to be her stepmother. That's the nicest compliment I have ever been given.

10) And finally ..... the perfect age to be??? Its now. I am so lucky to have such an incredible life and a wonderful partner to share it with. I really don't think anyone else has such a perfect life.... bills, cracked plaster, jobs and all. In the big picture............. it is all good.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A good time was had by all.......................

Good food -- Good friends --- Lots of wonderful wine and one AWESOME pale ale made by Helen. (Honey sooooo thanks you!!!)

I heart wine club!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bad news on the farming front...........

Its been a tough year here on the east coast of Iowa. We have had waaay too much rain. We have had waaay too much cold. And the combination is causing a lot of discussion on the farming front.

Many of our friends' incomes (and ours!) have been cut by the weather conditions. We have been lucky that the demand is there for our products. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to deliver. Our crops have been damaged by too much rain, too much wind and too many cool days.

And that's playing out throughout the state. And the country. Region after region have been hit by drought, by flooding, by early frost. Farming has always been a gamble. This year, I would have made out better in Vegas.

Yesterday, I read this article. I lived through the farm crisis of the 1980's. I saw friends lose everything they had. Some .... came out stronger and wiser for it. But we humans have short memories. We lost a lot of farmland then to development and corporate farms. And we can't afford to lose any more small farms.

I read the articles you write. I hear the speeches that you give. You read the books. You see the movies. You want fresh, local foods in our schools, our homes, our diets. But are you just talking the talk? Or are you really walking the walk?

So .... I'm pleading. Please do your part. Visit a farmers market today. Stop at a roadside stand. Knock on a farmer's door to buy eggs. It may take a little extra time. It may take a little extra work. But we need you.

And more importantly, you need us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wanna buy a cupcake????

I was listening to the Sunday morning talk shows and their pundits. PBS interviewed Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) about health care reform. Senator Coburn is one of the few practicing physicians in Congress.

From what I understand, he does see need for reform but doesn't see the need for government to get involved in that reform.

Sen. Coburn's answer was for neighbors to take care of neighbors.

Ya know, I like that. I personally think that is a great idea.

But here is what I see as the problem. I know no one that is as financially secure today as they were 10 years ago. Our income has dropped 33% in the last 6 years. However, cost of living has continued to go up. Our 401k might pay for a few years of heat ......... but not much more!!!

So ..... I could call my friends and ask ....... "Wanna help me pay for my health care expenses?"
And as dear and wonderful as our friends are ........ they are facing their own financial worries.

This is my point of view...... friends are there when I need a hug or to cry. Friends may bring a delicious meal to help out. Friends may offer a ride, run an errand for me or hand me a bag of green peppers. But friends don't need to be paying my health care bills.

And as I see it .......... we are looking at a vicious circle. Sue needs $4000 today for a CT-scan and Johnny needs $2000 for colonoscopy. We are collecting and passing money around and around and around. Senator Coburn must live in a fancier neighborhood than I do cuz $4000 looks pretty overwhelming to me and my friends. Let alone the hundreds of thousands that many Americans owe to the health care system.

We have insurance ..... and relatively good insurance at that. But the constant health-care expenses have eaten away at our savings, our financial well-being and our future. And I know I am not alone. We are all facing that ........ its just a health-care crisis away.

So maybe the answer is that age-old answer ........ we need to have a bake sale. Yep!! Right on the corner ........ I'll be selling cookies and bread. I better run ........ I have 11,000 cupcakes to bake. I wonder if I have enough flour???

Monday, October 12, 2009

Food 101 ...........comes after Farming 101

I had an interesting day on Saturday.

First of all ...... Saturday was downright cold. We had the first hard freeze of the season and the earliest snow on record. If we hit a high of 40 degrees on Saturday, it was a miracle.

So Saturday afternoon, I am working on a pair of socks and Cliff is painting a window for the chicken coop. I suddenly hear the alarm on the driveway go off. Hmmmm? We weren't expecting anyone.

I walk out to greet the visitors. Here are two local women bundled up in winter coats and shawls. "Can we see what kind of flowers you have?"

I reply ...... like the smart-ass that I am ....... "Crispy frozen flowers."

"You don't have flowers??" And then I realized that they really expected me to have flowers. So I asked if they had seen the snow that fell earlier in the day. Yes, they had. But they could not make the correlation between cold weather and the lack of flowers.

Yes ........ its time to take Food 101.

Ah-ha!! But to take Food 101, you must have take the prerequisite Farming 101.

1) First, farming (therefore, food production) is a weather dominated activity. Temperatures and rainfall determine the success of a crop. Crops have an optimum temperature where they grow and flourish. Corn likes it hot and humid. The kernels develop and the ears fill out. Unfortunately, here is eastern Iowa, we had a cool, comfortable summer. We (humans) liked it. Corn ...... did not.

2) Most food crops are annual crops. That means they live their entire life-cycle in one year. Annual. When their life-cycle starts late or ends early, we don't have the yield that we would like.

Example .... our tomato crop here at the farm. I planted 54 tomato plants at the end of May. I plant fairly late because local farms may spray a herbicide earlier in May. Tomatoes are particularly sensitive to that herbicide and will curl up and die. The herbicide can go quite a distance on the wind ... that is called drift.

You also want a nice warm soil temperature for the tomatoes. They may survive cooler soil temps but they don't thrive. So planting tomatoes in February and keeping them covered doesn't guarantee tomatoes in May!

So for all our hard work and planning, our tomatoes did not have a good year due to the cool wet summer. The tomatoes ripen slowly in cool temperatures and the wet conditions lead to more fungal disease and blossom end rot. Finally, in September, I was beginning to get tomatoes.

Saturday, the tomatoes froze. They don't come back. It doesn't matter how warm it gets ... they are done. D-O-N-E. Done.

3) Change is not instant on the farm. Yes -- you can get your clothes dry-cleaned in an hour. You can make Mac 'n Cheese to 2 minutes. But the flowers that didn't have buds yesterday ... aren't going to bloom today.

Earlier this spring, we had customers that came to the farm in mid-May. They were upset that I didn't have any flowers. I reminded them of the frost advisory that was issued on Wednesday.... 4 days earlier. And on Sunday their exact words were, "But it is nice today!".

Will Rogers said, "Every man is ignorant. Just on different subjects."

For living in a very rural state in a fairly rural area, we are extremely ignorant on agriculture and farm life. We are two and three generations from the farm. We know more about the car we drive or the phone we use than the food we eat. It is time to change that fact.

We have made GREAT strides with the Buy Fresh- Buy Local campaigns throughout the nation. But now .... we have customers that think we should have tomatoes all the time!! They want local food but don't yet understand seasonal foods. Even in groups that claim to want local foods ..... the lack of agricultural knowledge is appalling. They know what bad farming practices are......... but do they know what good farming practices are???

Unfortunately, I am not talking to those people. So ..... as I am preaching to the choir......... where do we begin? I'd like a little stronger beginning than singing "Old McDonald had a farm".

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Four letter words................

Cold. Snow. Soup.

Yep .............. I volunteered to do a soup class today. In the cold. In the snow. In Iowa. In October.

Seriously, WTF????

The Freight House Farmer's market was having a soup contest. They asked if I would do a soup demo and I quickly agreed. Actually, I think I volunteered to do a soup demo. Silly girl.

I knew it could be cold. And it met my expectations! Around 26-28 degrees this morning. Really, WTF???? (Can you tell? I'm having issues with this weather!!!)

So I'm fairly warmly dressed........ but I can't cook dressed in a parka. And chopping onions does not work in mittens! (Reality check .... I had run the celery and the onions through the food processor before we left because I can barely type when my hands are cold. Let alone use sharp objects and slippery veggies!!)

But then .... I am standing, talking ... to my six member audience! (Thank you for coming. More importantly, thank you for staying!!) One of my friends walks by and says, "Cathy.. it's snowing! I saw a flake!)

I thought to myself ... yea, there could be a flake or two at the market. ;)

No ..... it started snowing like crazy!! We didn't have summer .... now, we aren't having fall!!

It was so cold .... I couldn't get the butter to melt in the stock pot when my burner was on high. I held on to the pot, hoping my hands would warm up. Who needed pot holders when it is 30 degrees?????

So for everyone that was smart enough to stay home under the blanket rather than venturing out in our first snow of the season............. here is my tomato soup recipe.

Old-fashioned Tomato soup ……
½ medium onion, chopped 2 stalks of celery, chopped 1 stick of butter or ½ cup of olive oil ½ c all-purpose flour 2 quarts of tomatoes…….chopped with the juice (maybe just a bit more than 2 qts) cream, half-half, milk or fat-free evaporated milk ……to finish it off.

Saute’ the onion and the celery in the fat until soft. Remove from the burner and add the flour, making a roux. Slowly add the tomatoes, mashing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Stir until thicken. Add a little cream to add a richness to it.

Season throughout the cooking time with your favorite herbs, salt and pepper. Use this as a base for a heartier meal by adding more veggies, meats such as bacon, sausage, or left-over grilled chicken. Top it with croutons, cheese, and freshly chopped herbs.

The biggest thing to realize when cooking with home-canned/local/fresh products..... there are no recipes. Just a loosely written guidelines. The tomato soup may take a few more tomatoes. It did today .... when I got home, I added another pint of tomatoes and 1/2 pint of juice that was left in the fridge. Be flexible. It's not rocket science.

Don't cook ......... create. And stay warm!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

A is for apple, B is for Band-aid .........

So who knew cooking could be so dangerous???

My dear friend and neighbor, Sheepie Neighbor makes an awesome pie. Her pantry is filled with jars of apple pie filling. Me ....... I'm a ala' mode type girl.

Yep .... forget making the crust........ just give me the ice cream and filling!!! (Has nothing to do with the world-wide-known fact ---- I make a lousy pie crust!!)

One year, after a bumper crop of apples, I was searching for another way to use them. I had made jam and apple butter. I had canned and froze apples for baking. We dried apple snacks. And we squeezed and squeezed cider. Finally, I found the recipe for cinnamon apple ice cream topping.

My summer-weeder and friend Sarah has adventured into the world of canning. This has been a lot of fun for me. During the summer, we made dilly beans, canned tomatoes and yesterday, we made this. Sarah's husband Jamie wasn't too sure about it when I sent a jar home with her. But it quickly become a favorite so Sarah knew she wanted the recipe.

First on the agenda ........ peel, core and dice the apples. Sounds easy enough. After all -- I have this handy-dandy weapon!

Note to the inexperienced ..... do not place thumb under the peeling blade. (Why wasn't that warning on the box??) No ..... while removing a core that was stuck -- I decided a manicure was in order. A little creative use of the peeler......... YIKES!!!! And Lord knows, I am not going to endure another medical bill! So few backstitches with mauve embroidery floss and a french-knot or two, I will be as good as new!

So onto the recipe.........
Cinnamon Apple Ice Cream Topping (Canned)

7 cups sliced peeled apples
3 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp cinnamon

Heat lemon juice for one minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a full rolling boil. Stir constantly for 3 minutes. Fill hot jars, leaving a 1/4" headspace. And Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Makes approximately 4 pints.

Yep ... its good and if your trees are bending from the weight of apples, this might be a nice treat. Next item on the list --- apple pie jam. And Honey is doing the peeling!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Socktoberfest continues.............

Two down ..... two to go. Honey has his new warm socks on already. The next pair is for me. But for now .... I'll cuddle under the blanket and try to wish this cold damp weather away.

If I could only knit with my injury. Can you knit with only one opposable thumb? Ahhh .... but more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Soup, salsa and socks .... must be October!

Hellooo! What happened to summer??? All my windows are battened down, the quilt is back on the bed and I'm thinkin' about turning on my space heater here in the office!

So all my activities have been turned toward the warmer side of life. Yep .... we are talkin' soup, salsa and socks.

Ok -- Saturday, October 10th, I will be at the Freight House Farmers Market (where else?) doing a demo for Buy Fresh-Buy Local on making soup. I will have recipes for 3-4 different soups using items that have been frozen or home-canned or stored throughout the season. I will be teaching how to make homemade tomato soup ....... I love this!! This is not Mrs. Campbell's soup!!!

I will also be teaching to basics of making beef soup stock from beef shanks. When I am talking to people, many are uncertain how to make a beef stock and cook a soup bone properly..... so hopefully, I can help get the basics down.

There will also be a throw-down soup contest with lots of prizes. I'm working on a new recipe called Mumford Medley in honor of my Alma Mater and all the goodies that are grown in the Midwest. If it turns out well (meaning..... if I win, place or show!) I will post the recipe. Otherwise .... its secrets are locked within me!

In other domestic news ... I think the last of the tomatoes become salsa. I am so over tomatoes! I didn't can nearly as many as I have in previous years but I just couldn't get into it. There is still one jar of salsa and 2 quarts of tomatoes for every week of the year -- plus tomato sauce, tomato juice, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and catsup. But pantry number 3 is not full this year.

And finally............ it's Socktoberfest!!!!! I'm not going to participate in any of the mystery sock patterns. Actually, my goal is to finish 4 pairs of socks. And one pair is complete!!!

This was really neat yarn .... I bought it at la bella vita fibre gallery in Mineral Point. There is absolutely no repeat. Colors just blend together so the socks are sort-of/sort-of-not matching. Very cool!

And one pair is 3/4 of the way done --- I'm knitting the heel flap on sock #2 now.

So are you beginning to really catch the meaning of my goal .......... finish 4 pairs of socks!!! Yea .... there is a lot of stash and a lot of One-sock-wonders hanging around Miss Effie's. The picture above is the easily-gotten-to-stash. You know, the stuff you are going to knit ASAP! Barely taken out of a bag. Not hid under the bed or in the hallway closet or in the pressure canner. (I'm counting on your understanding! I'm certain you have been there!)

But my stash was getting lonely. So Saturday, at the market, I was drawn to this beautiful oatmeal colored shetland...... spun from a guy named Rocky! Can't you hear the music now? This is the yarn to conquer Socktoberfest!!!

Unless it decides to be a sweater ......

Friday, October 2, 2009

The week in Agriculture or More Mad Farmer News!

Lately, life has been a bit of a whirlwind at Miss Eff's. Last week -- I had two food demos, two cider pressing and two speeches. Yea ........ you would think I would be talked out. Not so much!! Got another speech today.

What I am ......... is exhausted!!!

Last year, Miss Effie's applied and was accepted into Animal Welfare Approved. We were the only farm in Scott County and one of the few in Eastern Iowa. (Seriously, does it really matter that we were the only farm that applied?? Can't we just forget that little fact??)

Animal Welfare Approved certifies good husbandry practices -- basically, I take really good care of my girls and they are provided plenty of feed, water and fresh air. This Tuesday was our yearly audit to verify our compliance with the program and to continue our certification.

Now -- this year, we added an additional coop,

more roost space,

enough nesting boxes,

and more yard space -- we have 720 sq of yard space

plus 2 additional runs that we can isolate chicks or smaller more-venerable animals. The old coop, pictured above, is now being used for a brooder house for a couple of weeks more .... then the chicks, the silkies and my glamour girls ..... Eva, Zsa-Zsa and Liz Taylor will live together.

They are concerned that the girls may not have enough "pasture" space. I lived in several apartments smaller than that and no one was concerned about my pasture space!!!!

From October (first frost) to about mid-April, they can roam to their heart's content. But the rest of the year .... my income is based on flower sales and my girls have yet to differentiate between pigweed and zinnias! Once they have that figured out -- they can have total run of the place.

Then there is the fact, I could be painting a target on their backs.

Both our fox and coyote population has increased. If you read the adventures that Sheepie Neighbor had with one of our neighborhood predators, you know that fox will be a problem even in the middle of the day. So I really like having the girls where I can see them!

Hopefully, we will pass inspection.

We still have some work to do..... the duck area needs to be expanded. Honey is building another duck hut today. We have a little more cleanup as the new chicken run was home to our rock pile so that needs to be moved. And I have to "fluff". A new garden will go in front of the coop -- I have some magic lilies, 60 tulips and a peony that will go there. An arbor will welcome everyone and I will place a bench along the side of the shop for just a little chicken ambiance!

More farm news....... I adopted another duck.

Detour is one ugly ugly duck!!!! A Muscovy drake, Detour ran into a snapping turtle and lost part of his beak and bean. (Trivia questions.... where is the "bean" on a duck?) He is 14 pounds ..... one big boy compared to my little mini silver applewood hen! Hopefully, he and Lucy and the mixed colored call ducks and the Seuss crowd ... will get along. So far ............... so good!!!

Yea ..... the neighbors are checking out the new guy!!!

And one more bit of news. You know how I sing to the choir about the benefits and joys of local foods. To be honest, I sometimes get discouraged. OK -- I feel like I preach and preach and preach and I can't make a difference with my own family ............ how am I going to reach the masses?????

Last week -- I spoke at a Staff Development day at our local junior college. I had a great time. They were interested and welcoming and inquisitive. But you never know........... until I received this:

Again, I was so impressed with your message and became so motivated with supporting the farmer's market and our local farmers and businesses because of your words. I always have enjoyed the Farmer's Market, but until I heard your message I really did not understand the whole importance that our local farmers depend on us. I will buy everything I can from our local farmers before I do Hy-Vee from now on! Thank you!

YEA!!!! Today ----we won one for the farm team!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cold weather and Comfort Food...........

We almost got frost in Iowa yesterday so its time to break out the comfort food. I have a rule here at Miss Eff's. The furnace does not go on until November 1st. The wood stove gets a good work out. We break out the sweaters and the blankets and the wool socks. And lots of comfort food is on the plate.

(Truth be known ..... I almost always wimp out and the furnace goes on before November 1st!!! But it is a good thought!)

So -- its time for a new- inexpensive - healthy supper for us all. I found no name for this so it will be Wild Rice Stuffed Squash.

We were given what I think was a Buttercup squash. So I used what we had -- next time, it will be an acorn squash.

First slice the squash in half, clean the seeds out, and put a little butter and salt and pepper into the squash. Bake at 350 degrees until the squash is tender and a fork easily pierces it.

Then work on the filling.

I LOVE wild rice. I don't care what you put it in -- I will devour it instantly. You can use a brown rice-wild rice mix or a long grain rice -wild rice mix. But I really like using whole unbroken wild rice. It is a little expensive but it is so delicious and you use so little, it is worth it. You can substitute plain brown rice too but it will lose a lot of its flavor.

Rinse 1/2-3/4 cup of wild rice in cold water and cook according to instructions. Often it takes about 45 minutes to become tender. Then rinse again and drain.

In the meantime, brown 1 lb of ground beef in a skillet. (Next time, I will use ground bison)

Add 1/2 of an onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 oz of mushrooms, chopped

And saute till tender. Simmer on the stove, making sure it doesn't burn. Depending on the fat content of your beef .... you may need to add a dash of olive oil.

At this point, I made a typical white sauce, using 3 TBSP of butter, 3 TBSP of flour and 1-1/2 cups of milk.

I stirred the white sauce into the meat mixture, stirred in the drained and rinsed wild rice and tossed in a hand-full of dried cranberries.... maybe 1/3 cup. I added some all-purpose seasoning that I get from Frontier Seasoning. Then some salt and pepper to taste.

I then spooned the rice/beef/cranberry mixture into the fully baked acorn squash boats and baked it in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Just enough to make the top brown.

It was hearty and healthy and really good. This should fill 2-3 whole acorn squash. It would have filled 3 buttercup squash halves and they are much bigger than most acorn squash.

For my vegetarian friends.... I think you could do this easily with a mixture of brown rice and wild rice. You might need a little more white sauce.

Inspiration for this dish came from a PBS show called Seasoned with Spirit. This seems to be a Native American dish from northern Minnesota that is made to celebrate the first rice ....... the first harvest of the wild rice. I did some changes to it -- they use buffalo meat and don't have anything to bind it.

But it was delicious and warm and definitely a "do-over!"