Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blueberry Maple Syrup

We are having a bumper crop of blueberries this year.

Whether it's because of the weather, the fact that I was too lazy to prune the bushes too hard last winter or some other unknown factor, we have so many to harvest that we can't keep up with the picking. They are exceptionally sweet this year too. Our freezer was empty of berries so we're very glad to get them and it's such a blessing to wander around the front yard every morning grazing on berries for breakfast. We just don't get tired of those fresh anti-oxidants.

When I met up with my daughter, Katie, in Oklahoma, she brought me a load of her home-produced maple syrup. My son-in-law gathers the sap in February and they cook it down in evaporators with their Amish neighbors. It's great to have a ready supply of this quality, natural, mineral rich sugar. I love it in my morning coffee.

With such an abundance of blueberries it's finally time to make some more blueberry syrup. I don't like to use white sugar to make the syrup so was happy to find a recipe for blueberry maple syrup. It' so simple and straightforward and results in a delicious pancake syrup.

To make about two cups of syrup, combine in a pot: 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup, 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, 1/4 cup water and 2 or 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Heat and simmer for five minutes until berries are soft.

As you can see I made a big pot. I used twelve cups of berries and a whole quart of pure maple syrup.

When the berries are soft, strain the berries and juices through a fine mesh strainer or a food mill. Press the berries to extract as much of the berry goodness as possible. Discard the solids in the compost bucket for the chickens.

Since I made a large pot I reheated the syrup and sealed it in pint jars.

When I brought out the blueberry syrup for Sunday morning pancakes, nearly a whole jar disappeared during the meal. That means I'll need to repeat this project about seven more times to have enough to last until the blueberry harvest next summer. Which means I'll need more maple syrup.

What a great Christmas gift home-made blueberry syrup would make too!

Monday, August 29, 2011


When I left for Oklahoma, this is what the back entrance to my little farmhouse looked like:

A few days later when I returned, this is what it looked like:

I'm glad I missed the in-between part that happened here.

This was the start of the home improvement project that has been planned and intended for a few years now. It isn't spring any longer, our original start time, but we do hope to get the bulk of the building done and a roof over it before the rains begin in October. We better get hopping.

The final assault for this phase took place a few days ago with the removal of the porch and the old concrete steps that were under it. Jack hammers may have been used.

Our three youngest men were put to the clean-up task.
Working hard or hardly working there, guys?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Summer Saturday Kitchen

It's August, for a few more days anyway, and that means that there are wonderful things happening in the garden and in the kitchen.

One of my very favorite summer garden flowers is oriental lilies. This majestic white beauty is called Casablanca. Since I can see it from my wicker chair perch on the deck I haven't had the heart to cut it. Their bloom lasts so much longer on the plant.

But I had to bring this amazing one into the kitchen so I could enjoy its fragrance.
Despite the best efforts of an underground varmint to eat all my lily bulbs, I have a few of these to enjoy. I have many more of the Asiatic variety but these Orientals just knock my socks off every time.

Alyssa and I spent the morning in the kitchen preserving some of the garden bounty that has just begun to be harvested. Yesterday a customer gave my husband a box of fresh ripe peaches so Alyssa peeled and sliced them.
I'll make a peach pie filling by baking the sliced peaches with sugar, cinnamon, tapioca starch and butter in a 350 degree oven until they are bubbly. Just like making a pie without the crust. After the filling cools completely I can freeze it in containers for future pies or maybe I'll throw a pie together to eat now. I have found that making a filling like this for peach pie is the best way to avoid those soggy bottom pies that juicy fresh peaches tend to produce.

I also took our first good harvest of basil. Alyssa made several batches of pesto that we put into the freezer to enjoy over the winter.

Except Alyssa's asking for pesto pasta tonight.

I spent the morning picking blueberries, making strawberry jam, blueberry jam and blueberry syrup.
Later this week I'll post the easy recipe for making blueberry syrup.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photo Album

All right. I'm going to share some random photos from the Pie Workshop Weekend at The Lodge and then we'll move on, because....aren't you tired of hearing about it by now? These photos are mostly of food and the preparation of it because food was why we were there in the first place.

I am a salad lover. Love, love, love a good salad. This was a good salad. Spinach with bacon and poached eggs drizzled with mustard vinaigrette. Classic and sooo yummy. It accompanied those cheesy grits and pork loin with apples. I ate it for breakfast and lunch too. I'll be swimming a few extra miles for a while to work that weekend off my hips.

Friday was our prep day for the workshop. There was much to get ready. Alyssa valiantly squeezed lemons for my lemon curd.

My girls made a small trailer load of pie dough. They know how to make my pie dough better than anyone else.

Ellen chopped mushrooms for Tiffany's pot pie fillings.  Tiffany, by the way, was the assistant cook that made this workshop so successful. She was masterful!

Vivacious April did the grunt work with the apples and the dirty dishes. Always with a smile on her face.

Ree cooked for us again Friday night. She's good at that. I'd like her secret to staying so svelte.

Friday night supper was a delectable Asian style chicken on egg noodles. Afterwards Evan licked everyone's plates and cleaned their chicken bones. It was that good.

Saturday morning prep included getting the mise en place ready for quiches. Roasted red peppers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and spicy sausage set a mostly Italian theme.

Ree's willowy girls swept up a bit before the guests arrived.

April's Ellen and my Alyssa bonded over the baby.

More food. Yes, because can there ever be enough food? This was the spread put out for the guests to graze on in case they got hungry while making pie. Delightful chicken salad wrapped in crepes was my favorite. And I loved that simple cheese with jalepeno jelly!

The buffet of pastry goods was sampled but the whole fruit pies in the pretty fluted glass pans went home with their makers. The newly minted pie bakers were thrilled to share the fruits of their labor with friends and family at home. A couple of those mini quiches went on the plane home with me which was appropriate because pie was the pre-sandwich era travel food.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pie Workshop Post at PW

The Pioneer Woman made a post about our awesome day making pie at The Lodge in Oklahoma.

Mosey on over there to see some great photos of the guests and their beautiful pies.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Swim Practice

There's an event in which I have always wanted to participate. The Webster Cross Channel Swim occurs here every year on Labor Day at the Columbia River. I've always secretly wanted to go but didn't feel capable. This year, my fiftieth year on the planet, I've been swimming laps twice a week in a pool as part of a fitness routine. I am in the best condition as a swimmer that I have ever been or ever will be so I figured it was time to take the plunge.

I am confident in my ability to swim 1.1 mile, but do feel the need to try out swimming that distance in a wet suit (necessary because of the temperature of the water) and to practice swimming in open water with a very distant target. I decided a good practice place would be the beautiful mountain lake that we love to visit every summer for supper picnics. Lost Lake is nestled on the north west side of Mount Hood. It has cold pristine waters. My son, Kris, loaned me his ocean surfing wet suit, and we put together a cooler of food for dinner.

I picked a target point across the lake, at an angle so that the distance would be longer and I set out. Kris and his friend Andrea shadowed me in a canoe, so no, I was not crossing the lake alone. The swim was extremely awkward at first. The wet suit made me so buoyant that I had difficulty keeping my head and shoulders low in the water and my feet kept popping out too. The cold water made me involuntarily hold my breath so I had trouble regulating my breathing. I'm so glad I tried this out before the actual channel swim!

I finally got it together and made progress across the lake. By the return trip I had found my rhythm and my mind was in the zone so that I didn't think about the dark depths below me. I loved swimming in the clean water, so different from the chlorinated pool. The only thing better would be swimming like this in some warm tropical ocean water.

After the swim I was ready to eat. Our picnic supper of garden salads and curried chicken sandwiches on olive bread was accompanied by a nice rose prosecco my son, the wine connoisseur, procured for us.

What's an evening at the lake without a stone skipping session?

I think I'll try this lake swim at least one more time before the morning of the channel crossing.

Riding with a Real Cowboy

I was going to do a post about our equine encounters at the Drummond Ranch. I got to have a memorable ride on a cutting horse that was as responsive as a Mercedes. Alyssa and her new friend, Ellen, had an extra ride with some great instruction from the horse trainer including saddling, feeding and grooming of their mounts. But since I am catching up on garden chores around here (pruning the tomato plants to try to coax some kind of harvest) and making a picnic supper to enjoy at a mountain lake tonight, I encourage you to check out April's post on the same horsey subject. She did a better job than I would have anyway.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Evan at The Lodge

At the risk of stating the obvious in an unoriginal way....we had a great time at The Lodge on the Drummond Ranch in Oklahoma.

I thought I'd let you see the fun from my grandson, Evan's, perspective.

The cowhide rugs in every room were beautiful and were a comfy spot for the occasional diaper change.

He spent the first twenty-four hours or so inspecting the bathrooms....

....and the kitchen. Everything met with his approval.

As long as momma was around he was happy to meet everyone that was not his momma.

And I can only tell you, (because I don't have photos of the historic event) that Ree Drummond was his baby sitter while his momma and grandma hung out with the cowboy and horses for about two hours. Ree sung to him (including hits like The Cowman and the Farmer Should Be Friends and the Jackson's ABC), played games and even changed his poopy diaper!

The little pip-squeak is an eating machine. There was no food he didn't like. With gusto. Including a divine dinner served up by the Pioneer Woman that included cheesy bacon grits that were out of this world. He ate them again for breakfast and lunch more than a few times. This here Yankee (I) had never eaten grits before and was easily converted to a Southerner by proxy with Ree's rendition.

Evan ate and ate and ate everything in site.

His momma says Evan's motto is your food is my food.

Oregon blueberries were no exception.

Evan absolutely adored Charlie the Basset Hound. We did too.

He wanted to take him home. We did too.

Charlie sniffed Evan and Evan licked Charlie.

It seems that Charlie shares Evan's motto too.

All in all, we made lots of memories and Evan made lots of new friends.
Being the only baby at The Lodge was a cushy job.