The horse's pasture to the East...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Home. When I think of home  the first thing that comes to mind is the kitchen. I love a big comfy kitchen with a table to sit at, a window to look out of and a pretty table cloth on the table. I keep tea cups and a tea pot handy, cushions on my old mismatched chairs and a bowl of apples or peaches on the table. 

I love the smell of good food cooking, people moving around in the kitchen, helping each other, laughter, talking about their day. Ours begins and ends in the kitchen. 

I love the spring and summer in Kansas. It's our growing season. Herbs and early vegetables, wild and potted flowers start our year. As soon as the wet season backs off the winter wheat is harvested and the rituals of a Midwestern life begin. 

About this time of the year is when the weeds are overwhelming and the lawn is a meadow because the rains haven't stopped long enough to get a good mowing in. But my vegetable garden is going gangbusters and it's always exciting to run out in the morning to see how much it grew over night. Every year we have set backs with certain things, huge crops of others. It's all weather related and never dull. Three years ago I bottled more than fifty jars of cucumbers. We're still eating those pickles!

Setting a beautiful table, putting out mismatched pieces of china, yellowware bowls and my Grandma's platter with biscuits or muffins on it, making sure everyone is comfortable, is an art form. I love to make it so wonderful to look at, so delicious to taste and smell that people want to sit there and dine, take their time, tell stories, relax. Most people gobble. Eating should be a place where you stop to catch your breath, spend time with someone you care for or even just a good book as your companion, while you eat one easy bite at a time, savor the textures, flavors and colors. 

As our lives speed up we miss out on the best parts, the reasons we're doing all the busy things for. Somehow people have forgotten how to cook, how to garden, how to watch the weather, amend the soil, put their hands in the dirt. Fast life, fast food, processed food, stress, compromised immune system, insomnia, headaches, the list goes on and on. We've lost our way.

I'm not going to pontificate on good old fashioned values blah, blah, blah. I am going to talk about real food, organic food, gardening, canning, freezing, dehydrating and nutrition. I should add in here that I am not a professional nutritionist. But you don't have to have a degree to understand how to eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, eggs and so on and so on and scooby dooby do on. You really are what you eat. Your Grandma had that one right.

It isn't that hard to find your way to a better style of eating. As you use up the processed and canned stuff, begin to add in more local produce, organic and seasonal produce.

Make a soup with canned tomatoes but start with an onion, some celery and carrots chopped in to bite sized pieces. Put some olive oil in the bottom of your soup pan, sauté the vegies for a few minutes, adding in a chopped clove of garlic at the end, add your can of tomatoes and a container of organic vegetable broth (or make your own. This is my idea of a quick meal so I use one of those boxes of organic broth from Pacific or Imagine), toss in a cup or so of frozen organic peas and maybe some organic corn, add in a can of beans of some sort, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and simmer for ten minutes. Voila!

 Homemade soup and it's all organic. In the summer you can make it with all fresh veggies from your garden. In the winter you can use fillers from your garden that you've stored like beets, turnips and parsnips, potatoes and carrots. People, it's all real food! And it only took you a half hour tops to make it. Unless you have teenagers (who clean every pot to the bottom at every meal) at home you'll have enough for lunch the next day too.

In the mornings have oatmeal with nuts, raisons and cranberries. Put two to one proportions for your oatmeal in a pot. Ie. 2 cups liquid to 1 cup oats. Make it richer by making the liquid half milk and half water. Add a pinch of sea salt, a handful of raisons and a handful of cranberries, a handful of pecans or walnuts. While you put your lunch together you can stir the oatmeal ever so often. Just bring it to a boil, turn it down to simmer. Takes about five or ten minutes. The oatmeal comes out creamy and the raisons and cranberries plump up and flavor it. Serve it with honey or real maple syrup and milk or cream. I promise you it will carry you through to lunch. You'll have more energy and so will your kids. It takes 10 minutes to make!

Taking your lunch to work with you? Put 8 ounces or so of real yogurt, stick with the plain organic kind like Nancy's or Stoneyfield, in a container. You can buy it in small containers too, but it's more expensive that way. Put a banana, sliced, and strawberries in another container with honey or maple syrup if you need to sweeten it. Mix them at lunch. Better yet mix them at home. Your yogurt will taste great when you open it for lunch. Add a handful of nuts and you have a filling, elegant meal. Need something more? Take an apple with you to snack on. I love mine smeared with peanut butter.

If you have time, make your own yogurt. You'll save even more. Better yet you can make it with local raw milk or goat milk. There are yogurt makers you can buy that will make the yogurt over night or during the day while you're at work. More than worth the investment. Ours paid for itself in the first month with the savings from making our own.

There's three meals, all real whole foods, and none of them took longer than 15 to 30 minutes to make. You can live without fast food. It's a choice and an adjustment if you're used to doing the hamburger/fries or pizza thing every night. It's hard to break an addiction and, I promise you, you are an addict if you eat like that. Take it in small steps, make the change over to eating real food one or two meals a week, then two or three the next. In a couple of months your diet will be considerably different. An aside here; if you are over weight as more than two thirds of our population are, you will begin to slowly lose weight when you eat real whole food. 

You will begin to lose your need for salt, sugar, grease and over processed foods. You'll sleep better, and the headaches will begin to disappear. Your energy levels will begin to come up too. You'll find that need to sleep away your afternoon or evening will be less of an issue. Your jeans will begin to fit again and maybe even that sexy little spaghetti strap dress you've got hidden at the back of the closet. 

Your skin will have a glow and your hair really will get thicker and softer. You are what you eat. Dump the processed foods, chemicals and preservatives, fast foods, sugar and grease. Better yet make the food with your kids or grandkids. Learn how to cook together! Both of my sons left home knowing how to cook and they still cook for their lovely wife and partner too. 

This month I'm going to spend talking about food, nutrition for you and your family, your dogs, horses. It's a subject near and dear to me. Eating should be a ritual that you enjoy, that makes you feel better because it's real food and not a place that you go to because you're unhappy or stressed out. My next several posts aren't going to be about going on a diet. I don't do that. I never diet.

Just for fun I'm going to end this post with my Grandma's Apple Pie recipe, the one for which she always won Best of Show. She won so many times that her friends asked her to give them just one year to compete without her Apple Pie in the standing.

CRUST: In a large crockery bowl cut together with a pastry cutter or two knives 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour, a tsp of sea salt and a cup of room temperature butter (Grandma used lard). It should look like crumbly pea sized or smaller bits. Make a well in the center and add 1/2 cup cold water. Keep some extra water in case you need it but only add a few drops at a time. Mix it with a wooden spoon. At the end you will need to flour your hands and gently mix it together in to a nice ball. While you do that fold it over ten or so times, to give it flakey layers. 

Cut in to four pieces. This is enough to make two double crust pies. Roll each piece out on a well-floured cloth or board. When you put it in to your pie pan make sure you leave a half to one inch over the top edge. You'll need that later when you pinch the edges together. 

One caveat: when you work with whole grain flour be gentle. It will toughen if you work it too much. It may take a little practice but, I promise, it will be worth it. Making your own crust is an art form worth learning. It's meditative and so satisfying when people exclaim over how good it tastes. 

FILLING: You'll need a mix of apples. I like Jonathan and Granny Smith but any mix of sweet and crunchy and tart and crunchy will do. (I hope you're sticking with all organic ingredients. Even if you aren't cudos to you for working with real ingredients. Keep taking those baby steps). Wash them well and put them in a bowl. You are NOT going to peel them or core them. You'll need a good grater, a big crockery bowl, some good music and a little attitude. 

Start grating. Put the cores in to a container to add to your compost (What? You don't have a compost? We'll work on that later.) and keep grating. You are going to need enough to make a nice, high mound in your pie plate, on top of that bottom crust. Fill up a nice sized crockery bowl to begin with. Obviously there isn't a whole lot of measuring with this but it's an old recipe handed down for almost two hundred years. No measuring then either. Cooking was an art form and that's what we're bringing back.

You'll also need more butter cut up in to tsp size pieces, brown sugar, cinnamon, a nutmeg to grate and some powered cloves and a few tbsp of flour.  Start with a first layer of grated apples. (Grandma did not use sugar. I added that in if you want to use it. I don't use sugar either.) Put dabs of butter here and there on the apples. (aren't they pretty with the skins on?), sprinkle a tiny bit of flour, sugar and one of the spices. Pinch the spices between your fingers and barely dust it on, like new fallen snow. 

Another layer of apples, pack it down with a nice pat, pat. Add a few dabs of butter here and there, sprinkle on sugar if you're using it (sparingly please!) and repeat with flour and another one of the spices.

Another layer of apples. At this point you should be mounding it up towards the middle, kind of like when you play in the sand. Add more layers of sugar, flour and another one of the spices. 

And now one last layer of gently packed grated apples, dabs of butter, sugar if you're using it, a dusting of flour and another spice. I use the cinnamon twice but that's up to your preferences. You might be more of a nutmeg or clove person. 

Now, roll out your top crust. Make it big enough that you have about a half inch to an inch extra around the edges. Carefully lay it on top and GENTLY shape it over the mounded apples. Use a bit of water on your finger to wet the edges of the crust where they will meet,  fold the top over the bottom and pinch them together in a pretty pattern between your finger and thumb on one hand and your thumb on the other. You'll have to experiment with that one. I've been doing this since I was a little girl so I've played a lot with the edge of the pie. Simple is best but, please, avoid the smash it together with a fork thing. Muddle through and have fun. You'll begin to get it as you try this again.

Cut with the tines of a fork or the edge of a small, sharp knife your own pattern in the top of your pie. You need this to allow steam to escape. You can also brush some beaten, just a little, egg whites over the top crust and a tiny sprinkle of sugar for color and texture. Keep it very light though. Simple is best.

Put it in a hot oven, about 425 to 450F for fifteen minutes. Turn down the heat to 350F and continue to cook for 40 to 45 minutes. Your crust will be browner on the edges and a light golden brown on top.

Take it out and let it set for at least 30 minutes. It needs to cool and set a bit. If you have a coyote living with you keep an eye on the counter. Coyotes love this pie! (I can personally attest to that) Serve with real vanilla ice cream or raw milk, aged cheddar cheese or real homemade whipped cream. 

If you have guests or teens at home expect there to be nothing left. It will disappear in one sitting. Excellent with good coffee or English Breakfast tea. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling because you are going to be so glad you have this recipe!

PS. My Grandma made this or cherry pie every day for breakfast. She was a farm wife and both of them loved to eat. Neither ever had a spare ounce on them either because they worked so hard. But that's another story. 

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