Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wintersquash Red Pepper Risotto

Yesterday, I made this very seasonal vegetarian dinner, which could easily be modified to be a vegan meal, and as I look at it, it is gluten free, too. Whoa! Look at all that goodness stirred into one. The kids all ate it and only 2/3 of them are typically fans of baked squash, so I'm booking this as a 'win'. As usual, I don't believe that it matters too much what particular type of pumpkin or winter squash you use.


2 small round winter squash (or similar)
2 red peppers, chopped and sauteed until slightly cooked but not mushy (this could be optional)
2 cups risotto rice (I often use short-grain Japanese rice because I have that in the house more reliably)
1 cup dry white wine
4 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 heaping tsp of 'More than Chicken' bouillon concentrate (or vegetable bouillon base)
boiling water at the ready
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (if you're going vegan, maybe try 1/4 cup nutritional yeast here)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 sage leaves, chopped


1. Cut the winter squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake cut side down on a cookie sheet until soft but not mushy, maybe 30 mintues at 350F, depending on size. Then scoop out the soft flesh and chop or mash with a potato masher.

2. In a medium size pot, sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil or butter until translucent
3. Add the rice, and stir to cover with oil or butter. Let it cook for a minute while stirring.
4. Now start pouring hot water into the rice, 1/2 cup at a time. Reduce heat to medium or slightly below and keep stirring. The water will be absorbed and you add more. At some point, add the chicken bouillon concentrate. Don't add too much water at once.

5. 20 minutes into it, add the wine instead of water. Then continue adding water until the risotto rice is the consistency you like. It should not turn to total mush.
6. When the rice is right, add the baked winter squash and stir well.
7. Add the sage leaves and peppers, stir well.
8. Remove from heat, add the parmesan cheese and pepper and serve. Drink more of the white wine, now that you've opened the bottle.

Manic Mother 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A homemade rug

Last spring, we redid the baby's room. Sniff - it was time to let go of the nursery and come to terms with the reality that we now have 3 'big girls'. "I told you I is a big girl!" is what the babee has to say on the matter...

Anyway, the room is microscopical. Smaller than some people's walk-in closet. Speaking of which, we removed the claustrophobically small closet from the room, to create a bit more open space. 

Anyway, back to the subject of this post: The rug. I'm particular about wanting natural materials, and in combination with the particular size I wanted and the styles I had in mind, the pickings were slim. So I decided on a completely untested DIY project based on the assumption that if that Stewart woman can paint a rug on canvas, I can sew one on the same material.

At home depot, I lucked into a natural color heavy duty cotton drop cloth on clearance. Seriously serendipidous. And no, I didn't iron it before commencing work. Stop acting surprised, now.
The birds were made of 100% wool felt which so far (9 months of very occasional, gentle vacuuming) has held up nicely. I enlarged the red bird from a graphic I found on the web, the woodpeckers and the tufted titmouse were enlarged from actual bird photographs.

I worked on the layout after cutting one layer of canvas to size (5'x6' I believe) and stitching the wings/tails onto the birds (using a plain zigzag stitch, and some straight stitch for the detail on the woodpeckers). The blue painters tape was used to create the outlines that I later made by stitching thick brown/gray wool yarn from the Drumlin Farm sheep down using a black heavy duty thread and again, a plain zigzag stitch.

I stitched the wool yarn down, and applique'ed the birds and leaves, onto a single layer of canvas. It turned out to be extremely important to strategically work from the center outward, or else the arm on my sewing machine wouldn't have fit the rolled up rest of the rug (same problem as with machine quilting). After that was all done, except the birds' feet, I cut a second layer of canvas, to extend 2in outside the original layer. I pinned it under the first layer, and then stitched down the birds' feet using red or gray/brown wool yarn. That kept the layers together just enough. For the binding, I used 4in wide grosgrain ribbon. First I folded the overhanging bottom layer upwards on top of the original layer, hiding its edge. Then I put the ribbon on top to hide the edge of the bottom layer. I tried rather messily for a mitered corner, but stitched down the point where the ribbons meet. I was more concerned with durability here, than with esthetics.

 The result is looking neat enough from top and bottom, save for the corners where I mis-cut the bottom layer and had to stitch it back on afterwards (that small black line at the corner...). Oops. I have yet to do a project where I don't mess up at some point or other. It's part of my (often hurried) process. Though I might take a cue from the fact that I literally was cutting corners, there :-)
Some more detailed pictures.  ...

The rug's been a big hit among the kids and visitors. I get a lot of satisfaction out of having made a rug for the kid that has yet to receive a baby quilt from me. Here you see it in the context of the rest of the room, and the bed that the husband made for her.

zum mitnehmen 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back to the grind

This is my recent import. My mom allowed me to pick through the stuff left to us by my late Oma, and I was able to fit this rather solid coffee grinder into my suitcase. OK, so I may or may not have bought a new suitcase for the sole purpose of filling it with more memorabilia. 
First thing we ground some brown rice, to clean the insides of the mill. That was hard! Then we filled it with coffee beans and the kids went to town. 


Make me happy that I now have a much-less-noisy coffee grinder than the little electric one I have. Also, I might dedicate the electric one to spice-use only, and be reminded of my Oma every morning as I grind my coffee. (Why do I grind my coffee every morning? Because I buy whole bean fair trade, organic coffee that is available only in 5 lbs bags. That way it keeps its flavor while I work my way through it ...)

Friday, October 25, 2013

5 eggs!

I have five hens left at this point. Today marks the first day that I have collected five eggs from them! This confirms, finally, my hypothesis that my last batch of chicks was not bred very well. Silver, who is supposed to be an Ameraucana and lay blue eggs, is clearly laying brown eggs. The one blue egg is by Brownie, an Ameraucana with the typical 'whiskers' which Silver also lacks. Never mind my grumpiness, this is a happy post. The molt is done! The light is hung! We're in eggs again! I shall post about Spaetzle soon.

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . . . 
{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Process Engineering 101

Today, I put my really dusty old process engineer hat on and went about processing some grain. Particle separation! Makes my heart swell. Of course, I would probably have done much better modeling the thing in 3D using finite element techniques than actually having to, you know, do the thing. The chaffing. But let's backtrack.

We grew some amaranth. Really beautiful plant that yields flowers, leafy greens and grain. The tallest, purple-red stalks is what we harvested today. Maybe three large stalks and several smaller ones.


Clipping the tops and sort of squeezing/massaging them to make the seeds fall out was the easy part. A colander, or later, a screen of my dehydrator, kept the large pieces of non-grain out. 

But then the hard part is to separate the grain from the chaff! And the bugs! And the random little sticks! This is where we got creative:

Blowing across while pouring the grain into a second bowl? Reasonable separation CAN be achieved, but it's tricky to place the bowl and blow at just the right strenght... plus there were natural wind gusts!

We tried every sieve we could think of:
The most successful was Ellie's idea to use a windowscreen. Just the right size gauge!

The chickens were unimpressed even though there were plenty of seeds falling to the ground. Apparently we're raising spoiled hens (who are being fed a lot of homegrown sunflower seeds these days...)
What did we have to show for our hard labor? 

A cup of amarath, not even 100% clean. Of course, one could say we grew our yearly supply of amaranth, because we really don't even know what to do with it. Yet.

But whoa. Processing one's own grain seems incredibly hard after this little exercise. Yay, mechanisation! Economies of scale! If it ever comes to the point where we have to grow our own grains, we'll be a potato-only family as far as carbs go!

Manic MotherThe Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Friday, October 18, 2013

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . . . 
{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pumpkin Granola

I made a yummy fall variation of my regular granola recipe today. I added about a cup of baked sugar pumpkin puree to the mix of liquids, and instead of water I used the light syrup left over from canning spiced apple slices. I added cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, and went a little heavy on the molasses. YUM!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Back from a short hiatus, readying the garden for its own hiatus. Mostly pulled out volunteer lemon balm, got herbs and chard ready for freezing/drying, and planted a bunch of garlic in several spots. It's my first year growing garlic so I'm trying the different beds for comparison. 

My middle daughter is more of a flower gardener, and she was in her element with all the fall colors out.
The summer squash is having some sort of late second wind. Hold off, you first frost! This may just work out!
This little pitcher was my late Oma's. I just brought it back with me from my trip home.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

All shapes and sizes

Life has been beyond crazy and most of it not in a fun and exciting way. So a simple reminder that wonderful things come in all shapes, colors and sizes is all I can manage for today. And it seems to me that I'm going to need one of them pig-roasting contraptions to bake that butternut squash :-)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Airway Robbery!

As soon as I realized my bees had consumed what little honey they had stored in early summer, I started feeding them. I received excellent advice on the matter and bought two styrofoam top feeders, and filled them with thick sugar syrup laced with Honey B Healthy. So far so good. Except one of the hives in particular went through the syrup ridiculously fast. A gallon in a day? And a lot of casualties in the basin of the feeder, which I attributed to the fact that it had run empty except for a sugar crust in the bottom.

So many casualties that a slotted spoon seemed the best option for undertaking...
Also, always a frenzy in the 'access chamber' part of the feeder. Totally congested. I thought the bees were just hungry! Until yesterday, when I noticed, partway inspired by the great bee movie "More Than Honey" that I had some bees in and around the hive that didn't look like mine at all! My bees have a yellow belly that looks a little like a translucent lantern to me. These bees were black and a little skinnier than mine.

Slowly it dawned on me that I was being robbed! I thought the top entrance was covered by the way the feeder fit into the outer cover, but that wasn't tight enough. As soon as I closed that up more, the syrup consumption went way down.

A day later, a friend came over to help me assess things. We found some honey, so at least some of the syrup has stayed in my own hives. We did not see eggs or a queen in either hive. We didn't search exhaustively, but I wish we'd seen evidence of queen-presence. In the 'good' hive, we found several recently used queen cells. It worries me that the hive might be attempting to supersede yet again (why??) because there probably aren't many drones around anymore, for mating! I am hoping that at least the warm weather will continue for a bit, if that helps them to sort out their situation. Doesn't seem like I can do much else at this point but keep feeding them and hoping for the best. Send me some happy, warm and fuzzy royal bee vibes, if you have some to spare!
occupied queen cell
used and empty queen cells
Another check and syrup top-off three days later showed much calmer bees, more reasonable honey consumption and almost no new casualties. I am learning, learning, learning. This has been a dramatic year for me, having encountered all sorts of non-normal situations in a single season!