Friday, November 30, 2012

Off the Shelf - November

What we've been reading this month.

Children's Books

Down Buttermilk Lane - Barbara Mitchell
A sweet story of an Amish family's shopping trip.

The Great Serum Race - Debbie S. Miller
The brave dog sled teams who raced to save a remote village in Alaska. The inspiration for the Idarod Dogsled Race.

No One Foot, Now the Other - Tomie de Paola
A tender look at the relationship of a young boy and his grandfather.

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain - Alice Dalgliesh
There are no bears on Hemlock Mountain - or are there? My husband's favorite that has become my sons' favorite, too.

Adult Books

I Will Carry You - Angie Smith
Angie chose to carry her baby, even though she knew it couldn't live after birth. This is the story of how God carried her through this time of grief.

On Writing Well - William Zinsser
A classic book on writing non-fiction. Excellent.

Turn Not Pale, Beloved Snail - Jacqueline Jackson
An older book for children on writing. Worth searching for to read even if you are an adult.

Tea and Trouble Brewing - Dorcas Smucker
Look for a review of this book tomorrow. Plus an opportunity to receive your own copy!

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I don't agree with everything written in all of these books.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last Harvest

The garden looks barren these days. Since we mulched the asparagus several weeks ago, I have hardly even walked out to the garden.

But there was still one spot of green - the last of our carrot crop.

Our carrots did better than they have in several years. In fact, the past two years, I had not even been able to get any carrots to sprout. But this year they did very well. We have been eating off this row of carrots since summer, just pulling the amount we needed. 

Yesterday I decided it was time to finish the harvest. I know that some gardeners cover their carrots with straw and store them right in the garden. But I know that on a bitter, cold day, I'm not going to feel like hacking at half frozen ground for a carrot to add to my soup.

I dug the carrots out, broke off the tops, washed them, and stored them in the fridge. They should last a few more weeks. I could have pressure canned the carrots, but my family does not prefer canned carrots.

I enjoy gardening, but right now I'm thrilled to be done for the year. The garden seed catalogs are arriving already. Probably by the end of January I'll be eagerly placing seed orders and dreaming of the best garden yet.

But for now, I'll enjoy the winter sabbatical.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Counting Blessings

Special memories from the past week.

I'm not one of those crafty moms, but my children love art projects. The directions for pastels on Hodgepodge looked like something even I could manage. Fingers were messy but the results were surprisingly good.

We spent Thanksgiving in North Carolina with Ed's sister Jean. She was gracious enough to allow her three brothers and their families, along with Ed's mom, to crash her house for three days.

The men and older nephews built a handsome wood shed.

The girl cousins shared tea parties and giggles.

The boys set up camp in the woods, cutting down small trees to build their own tipi. By the sounds of the shouts, they were having the time of their life. We were blessed with perfect weather all weekend.

We ladies were, of course, head of the food department. It was fun to share the kitchen with such a great group! But we found some time for some fun too. My crafty sister-in-law, inspired from Meadow Brook Gourds, brought along some dried gourds for the ladies to turn into snowmen.

Didn't they turn out adorable?

 It was so good to spend time working, eating, laughing, and even a little crying - together. I love my in-laws!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is a busy week. I doubt I'll be around here much. You are probably as busy as I am with shopping, cooking, and traveling. I'll leave a few links for those who ask for our favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Easy roast turkey
Deviled Turkey rub
What to do with all those turkey leftovers
My mom's best stuffing
Sweet potato crunch
Pumpkin Pie

I hope you find time to count your blessings this Thanksgiving. When I read of the turmoil in the news I am even more grateful for the blessing of peace with God.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Simple Scones with Variations

I've been on a scone binge recently. They are so easy to whip up and their presence is welcome at breakfast, afternoon snack, or served with soup.

Scones are basically a biscuit, though often sweetened with sugar and a little richer. Like muffins, there are many ways to adapt a scone. Often they are served as dessert with tea and cream, but they can also be made savory and served with eggs or soup.

Like biscuits and muffins, the key is to work quickly. Don't mix scones too much or they will be tough. I like to keep the dough very wet and sticky. I dump it out on a floured counter, sprinkle on more flour, fold the dough over itself with the help of a dough scraper, pat into a rough circle, and cut into wedges.

Also keep your ingredients cold. Sometimes after cutting in the butter, I freeze the flour mixture for five minutes.

Before long the aroma from the oven will be calling the rest of the household to the kitchen.

Simple Scones

2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat)
1/3 cup sugar (I use 1/4 cup honey)
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup milk or cream

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, or salt. (If using honey, mix it in with the milk.) Cut butter into flour until crumbly. I like to use a food processor. Only pulse as you want the butter to be in small pea size lumps. Add milk and stir with spoon just until moistened. Turn dough onto floured counter. Pat into circle. Cut into eight wedges. Place on baking sheet. Brush tops with milk if desired. Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.


Here is where it gets fun. Add anything you wish to the dough before baking. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1/4 mini chocolate chips and 1/4 cup dried cherries
1 cup chopped strawberries or 1 cup blueberries
1 cup chopped apple and 1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup chopped nuts
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar, 1/4 cup chopped cooked bacon, 2 T fresh chives (omit sugar or honey)
3/4 cup shredded Swiss, 3/4 cup chopped baked ham (omit sugar or honey)

You may sprinkle the scones with cinnamon sugar or sparkling sugar before baking.

After baking, you may drizzle on a vanilla glaze.

However you make your scones, they will be good!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

We like many different things with pumpkin. (Not that you would have guessed!) But the reason I freeze and can pumpkin is for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I often mix these up on a Sunday evenings. They are just the perfect light meal with a glass of cold milk. No one minds seeing them at breakfast either. Who doesn't mind starting the day out with a bit of chocolate?

This recipe found in the master muffin mix post but I'm listing it here again without using the muffin mix, since this is typically how I make them. I always double the recipe so we have two dozen muffins, and we rarely have any leftover.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cup flour (I use half whole wheat.)
1/3 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup honey)
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. (If using honey, mix with wet ingredients.) In another bowl, stir together eggs, milk, oil and pumpkin. Mix all ingredients together just until mixed. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Coupon - Nature Friend magazine

Looking for good reading material for your children?

Discouraged at the lack of quality resources that give God the glory for His creation?

Image of Nature Friend Magazine

My children love the Nature Friend magazine. The photography is excellent. This is a magazine that my children look at repeatedly. They especially enjoy the contributions from readers. One of their favorite sections is "You can Draw."

I remember reading the magazine as a child. These many years later, it still contains stories and articles that encourage exploration of our amazing world.

Some of the articles are geared toward older children, such as astronomy and science articles. Other articles are interesting to the younger family members. As a mom, I get to enjoy it all!

Besides the magazine itself, Nature Friend also publishes a special study guide with each issue that can be added to your subscription. The study guide includes extra projects, articles on wildlife photography, creative writing, and even camp cooking. The study guide would be a great addition for a homeschooler interested in nature study.

On the Nature Friend website you can find sample issues to peruse and much more information. Make sure you check out the page that shows amazing photos of an eastern screech owl nest.

Nature Friend magazine offered to give you a subscription discount.

If you order Nature Friend and use the coupon code HJB1213 you will get $3.00 off. That is like getting a free issue of Nature Friend!

Order a subscription for a child in your life and they will have a gift to enjoy all year. Feel free to share this coupon code with your friends or on your blog. I am in no way befitting from your purchase of Nature Friend. I just want to let others know about this excellent family resource.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Off the Shelf - October

What we were reading last month...

Children's Picture Books

Lost in the Woods - Carl R. Samsll
Nice photographs sharing the story of a newborn deer. Lots of extra animals hidden in the photos for children to hunt for.

Bustle in the Bushes - Giles Andreae
A book for the youngest insect lover.

One Smile- Cindy McKinley
The value in smiling to a stranger and the journey of that one smile.

Follow the Line Through the House - Laura Ljungkvist
A fun book of search-and-find.

Chapter Books
By reading this list, you may correctly assume we are studying about pioneer America. There are so many wonderful stories about this time period that we can't wait for history each day. All these books were favorites of young and old. (Oops...I can't believe I just described myself as "old."

Sarah Whitcher's Story - Elizabeth Yates
The true story of a young girl who was lost in the Connecticut wilderness.

The Courage of Sarah Noble - Alice Dalgliesh
Sarah travels with her father into the wilderness and find that Indians can be her friends.

The White Feather - Ruth Eitzen
A short book sharing the story of a Quaker family in Ohio, their determination to live in peace with all men and how God protected them. This is a refreshing alternative to the many books from this time period that share the idea of shoot-the-Indians-before-they-shoot-us.

Skippack School - Marguerite de Angleli
Lots of things to love about this book. The wonderful illustrations. The description of old fashioned printing presses (since my husband is a printer). The endearing story of a young boy and his school troubles. And the introduction to a real character, a Mennonite school teacher in colonial Pennsylvania.

Adult Books

Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore
A book written by two totally different men, a wealthy art dealer and a homeless sharecropper's son and how one women brought their lives together. I picked this up at my sister-in-law's house and had it read by the next day.

Peace Child - Don Richardson
If I had to pick my top ten books, this one would make the list. A stone-age cannibal tribe in New Guinea are transformed by the power of the Gospel. Our book club enjoyed great discussion from this book.

This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sourdough Pie Crust

I'm always up for new ideas on using my sourdough starter. Sourdough pie crust sounded interesting, and was surprisingly good. I know some bakers add vinegar to their pie crust. I assume the sourdough adds some of the same characteristics.

In this recipe, sourdough starter is used in place of water. Like any pie crust, the key to working with sourdough pie crust is cold ingredients and handling as little as possible.  

Sourdough Pie Crust

2 cups white flour 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 T sugar or honey
1 cup butter or lard
1 cup sourdough starter

Mix together flours, salt, and sugar. (If using honey, mix with starter.) Cut in butter or lard until there is no chunks bigger than a pea. I use a food processor to make this step easy.

At this point, I placed my dry ingredients and my starter in the freezer for ten minutes. I wanted them to be very cold. Stir starter into dry ingredients until it just comes together in to a ball. Since your starter may be more or less liquid than mine, you may need to add a little ice water or slightly more flour. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Roll out dough and place into pie pans.

This amount of dough makes at least two pie crusts. I had enough for one double crust pie, one single crust pie, and enough scraps to make a lattice top. Fill crusts and bake according to your recipe.

We are in an apple pie craze around here. Maybe I should share my apple pie recipe next!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Homemade Pie Crust

I was going to share a sourdough pie crust that I've been making recently but I realized that I never shared a basic pie crust recipe.

I don't consider myself a pro at pie crust baking. My mother-in-law makes pie crusts that flake just looking at them. Even when I use her recipe, I can't make pie crust that taste like hers.

But my husband says that my pies are nothing to be ashamed of so I'll share how I do it. This recipe is the one my mom taught me. I use lard, since we butcher hogs and have it readily available. I'm guessing other shortening/butter options would also work but I've never tried it.

I also make my pie crusts with half whole wheat flour, just because that is the way I butcher every recipe. It makes the crust a little heavier, but doesn't turn my family off pie.

Pastry for Pie Crust
Makes two double crust pies

4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/3 cup lard or shortening
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup ice water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in lard. The best way I have found to do this is in a food processor. It is so easy to get the flour and lard combined well. I then dump the mixture in a bowl to add the water. You want to mix the water in very lightly. Don't over mix.

When the flour is just starting to stick together so that I can take my hands and smush it together into a ball, I stop. Roll out pastry dough and place in pans.

My biggest frustration in making pie crust was rolling them out and transferring to the pan. I often managed to tear a big hole even when I floured my counter well. I tried roling on parchment paper and wax paper with limited success. Finally I picked up a pastry cloth and rolling pin sock at a kitchen store and found that rolling out pie crust could be fun. When they are floured well, the dough does not stick at all. If I do get a hole, I patch it by wetting a small piece of dough and pressing it into the hole.

I put my pie pan on the dough to see if I have rolled it large enough. Most of my pie pans came from my Grandma which makes them extra special. I wonder how many pies these pans have seen in their lifetime!

After trimming the edges, I flute it with my fingers. Every pie baker seems to have their own method. I couldn't begin to describe how I do it. But you'll soon come up with your own design.

I usually make several crusts and put them in the freezer. It doesn't take long to make a pie if the crust is already made. To pre-bake a crust, I bake at 475 degrees for about 8 minutes.

I'd love to hear your tips on making pie crusts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Corn Chowder

Some of you have kindly how our family was affected by the hurricane that hit the northeast this week. We were very blessed to have been mostly untouched. The winds were strong and we had four inches of rain but we never even lost our current. Many in our area had trees down and lost power for over 24 hours.  But even that wasn't near as bad as areas closer to the coast. We had much to be grateful for

All this dreary, cold, rainy weather has me in the mood for soup.

But then, it doesn't take much to put me in the mood for soup - I LOVE soup! Here is one of our favorites.

Corn Chowder

3 potatoes, diced
1 stem celery, chopped (optional)
1 large onion, diced
2 cups corn
1 cup milk
2 T flour
2 T butter
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 strips of bacon, fried and crumbled (optional)

Place potatoes, celery, and onion in pan. Add water until almost covered. Cook until tender. Add corn, butter, salt, and pepper. Mix flour with milk and add to vegetables. Heat to almost boiling. Sprinkle bacon over top if desired.


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