11/26/2014

A winter epiphany


I have been dreading winter since last winter.

I love spring - the rebirth of the earth.  The new growth and renewal.

I love summer - the abundance of the earth.  The green and the beauty.

I love autumn - the glory of the earth.  The harvest and the color.

I have not appreciated winter.  Until now.

I live in Connecticut.  For those who have never been here, the entire state is heavily wooded.  I also drive (deliveries) for one of my jobs.  I drive all over the state and all over New York state.  That gives me an abundance of thinking time.  I love it.

 As I was driving this week, I was pondering all of the trees.  Remembering how, mere weeks ago, the foliage was like a constant sunset.  They were bright and glorious as a bouquet of flowers.  Now they are naked.  Stripped of that which makes them beautiful.

Then I really looked.  They are still beautiful!

The trees, these aged beautiful and strong beings, were standing naked before the sky, before God, before the universe.  They had dropped all of their excess and "baggage" and were seemingly vulnerable before all.

They were beautiful.

I thought, "Isn't it great that they have dropped their leaves before we get a good snowstorm?! Without their leaves, they will be strong enough to hold the weight of the snow.  Sometimes a branch will break off under the weight, but the tree will usually heal.  If the tree falls, it is still beautiful and useful.  It can be a mother tree, shelter, warmth."

Then I made the connection - a personal epiphany, if you will.

It is only when we drop all of our excess and all of our baggage and stand naked and vulnerable before God/ourselves/the universe, that we can receive the strength to withstand the obstacles that fall on us.  Sometimes a part of us will break, but we will heal and be even stronger.  Yes, we may have scars, we might even fall, but we are still beautiful, strong, and useful.

That was my epiphany.

I love winter - the endurance of the earth.  The strength and the wisdom.


11/22/2014

Caramel Corn



I like popcorn.

I don't like popcorn.

It's a conundrum.

Okay, I like popcorn that I make at home that isn't microwaved or full of fake stuff like the movie theater chemical slurry "butter" or flavoring.

I love caramel corn. (except those little shell casings that always get stuck in my teeth......) *TMI warning* - I'm picking them out right now.

I have said before that my oldest kiddo is very allergic to peanuts.  Try finding a caramel corn that isn't at least "made in a facility that processes peanuts" or has traces.  Really - if you do, please let me know.

So, if we want caramel corn in my house, we make it.  It's pretty easy.  Here's how.  Don't be afraid.

Love my whirly-pop


Caramel Corn

huge bowl of popped plain popcorn - I used 1 cup of unpopped popcorn.  I don't know the equivalent of microwave popcorn (you really shouldn't use that stuff)

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 - 1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a medium pot, combine the sugar, butter, molasses and water.

Bring to a hard boil, stirring frequently.

Boil the caramel until it reaches the hard crack state, about 320 degrees.  If you don't have a thermometer, don't worry.  Hold up the spoon and let it drip into the pot.  If the drips end with a spider web-like thread, it is done.
video

Take off heat.

Working quickly and stirring constantly, add the baking soda.  It is going to bubble and lighten in color.  Keep stirring until the baking soda is completely incorporated.  This is a chemical reaction and will keep the caramel from becoming too hard and binding your teeth together (like Hagrid's treacle fudge in the Harry Potter series.)

Pour over the popcorn and start turning, stirring to combine.  
Keep stirring until the kernels are separate and yummy.

Eat it up.

Buy floss.

11/11/2014

Three Sisters Harvest Stew - vegetarian or vegan

 

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is 2 weeks and 2 days away.  How did this happen?

A decorated old foundation in Redding, CT

The leaves have fallen.  The summer CSA is over, BUT, The Farm at Woodbury is offering a winter CSA!!http://www.thefarmwoodbury.com/Winter-CSA.html

I know!

We are getting a lot of winter squash along with autumn veggies (turnips, leeks, rutabaga, potatoes, etc.)  We also are getting fruit, honey and their lovely heirloom tomato marinara sauce.

Lovely.

Since I seem to have a great supply of winter squash and it is almost Thanksgiving, I thought I would make up a hearty Harvest Stew.

I used the red Hubbard today
Native Americans did companion planting, the 3 sisters showing up most often in their lore.  The 3 sisters are beans, corn and squash.  The beans climb up the corn and the squash shades the ground to preserve moisture and reduce weeds.  Look it up, it's pretty nifty.

In this stew, I used canned beans and mixed them up.  I also used hard apple cider, but that is not necessary.  Any winter squash will do, too.  Here's what I did.


Three Sisters Harvest Stew

3 cups roasted winter squash (about 1 red Hubbard OR  butternut  OR 2 acorn squash)
2 Tablespoons butter OR olive oil
1 large onion (or enough to make about 2 cups)
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (12 ounce) bottle hard apple cider OR beer OR 1 1/2 cups water plus 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
3 cups water
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (optional - if you don't have the real deal, don't do it)
3 cups cooked beans, rinsed (I used pinto and black)
2 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Roast the squash on a foil lined sheet at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until soft.  Set aside to cool a bit.

If you use the pre-diced squash that you can get at the store, roast it the same way for about 40-45 minutes. (Whoever thought to pre-dice butternut squash deserves a raise.)

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the butter or olive oil.
Add the onion and the sweet potato and sauté until starting to brown.

Deglaze the pot with the cider, beer, or vinegar and water.  Cook to reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the herbs and salt and pepper.

In a blender or food processor, scoop out the roasted squash and blend with 3 cups of water.

Add to the onion mixture.

Add the beans and corn and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Serve with fresh bread.


11/01/2014

How to Make Pumpkin Puree - It's Easy!

It is November 1st.

Featured are spaghetti squash, red hubbard, delicata, turban, acorn, butternut, and pumpkin.  All are waiting to be cooked up and pureed.  The turban squash tasted like a cross between butternut and zucchini - very tasty

Don't throw out that pumpkin!!!!!

Don't do it!

Okay, if it is moldy and sunken in, go ahead and throw it away, but if it is not carved and whole and firm, cook it up!

It's easy.

Really.

Trust me.

The smaller, rounder pumpkins are the sweetest, in my opinion, but all of them can be cooked.  You can cook ANY winter squash this way.  

Here is what you need to do.

Take your gourd and cut it in half.

One pumpkin and one turban squash.
Scoop out all of the seeds.  You can wash the seeds and roast them, too, if you want.  I give mine to the chickens.  Actually, they got a whole pumpkin because I have a lot of them.

Half the halves of pumpkin (or any winter squash) if it is really big.  Small ones, half is fine.

Place them on a foil lined large baking sheet.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until a fork can easily pierce the pumpkin.

Remove from the oven and cool it until you can easily handle it.

Scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. 
 If you cooked a spaghetti squash, don't puree it, eat it for dinner with your favorite sauce. You can also leave it chunky if you want.

Put it in freezer bags.  I pre-measure 2 cups per bag, it makes it easier to cook with later.

Freeze it.



That's it.

Yep.

Easy.

Now you have pumpkin puree to use in so many recipes.  Here are some of my favorites.  Go ahead, try them.  http://ahawker.blogspot.com/2014/01/pumpkin-bread.html
http://ahawker.blogspot.com/2012/11/pumpkin-creme-brulee.html
http://ahawker.blogspot.com/2012/10/pumpkin-bread-pudding.html