Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas on the Bayou

For the past three years we have built a Gingerbread Display for The Gertrude C. Ford Center here in Oxford as a way of advertising our little budding soap business Cypress Lake Soap, and also as a way of contributing to benefiting our community because the Gingerbread Village also collects food for the local food banks and pantries in our area. This year in honor of our little business, We decided to recreate a scene reminiscent of the poem A Cajun Night Before Christmas.

Every year the kids have been able to participate a little more than the previous years. I like that it is becoming a collective effort and as they get older they are able to do and accomplish more. This year most of the gingerbread was created by me, but the boys helped by making animals from the chocolate clay that I made. They made chickens, alligators, chairs, pots, birds, rocks, nests, eggs, a deer, and cypress knees. The princess helped by testing, tasting, molding and eating what she molded. She said it was all pretty good. Matt helped with the trees, and made a couple of the cutest raccoons.

We worked for weeks and yesterday when it was finally finished and ready to be driven to its new home we couldn't get it through the door. It is quite a bit easier to get a 3'x 3' pallet through the door when it is turned sideways...and not one of us thought to even check to see if it would fit flat. After trying a couple of doors in the house I finally made the decision to risk it, remove everything that was not fixed in place and have Matt and Nathan turn the pallet while I held the house in place and hoped and prayed that everything else that was stuck on didn't come tumbling off.
There were a few casualties, but fortunately nothing that wasn't repairable, and other than a couple of birds and maybe a squirrel all the animals made it during travel from home to the destination. Although we originally had grander plans and not everything got accomplished, I am very happy with how things turned out and very proud of the work that my family did helping to create our Christmas Bayou Wonderland. I hope you all enjoy it too. I leave you today with pictures of our creation and the Cajun Night Before Christmas poem...

 Cajun Night Before Christmas

 Twas the night before Christmas an' all t'ru de house,
 Dey don't a ting pass Not even a mouse.
 De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo',
 An' Mama pass de pepper t'ru de crack on de do'.

 De Mama in de fireplace done roas' up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an' make de bake yam.
 Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
 Make soun' like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

 I run like a rabbit to got to de do',
 Trip over de dorg an' fall on de flo'.
 As I look out de do'in de light o' de moon,
 I t'ink, "Mahn, you crazy or got ol' too soon."

Cux dere on de by-you w'en I stretch ma'neck stiff,
 Dere's eight alligator a pullin' de skiff.
 An' a little fat drover wit' a long pole-ing stick,
I know r'at away got to be ole St.Nick.

 Mo' fas'er an' fas'er de' gator dey came
 He whistle an' holler an' call dem by name:
 "Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an' Alcee'!
 Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an'Renee'!

 To de top o' de porch to de top o' de wall,
 Make crawl, alligator, an' be sho' you don' fall.
" Like Tante Flo's cat t'ru de treetop he fly,
 W'en de big ole houn' dorg come a run hisse's by.

 Like dat up de porch dem ole 'gator clim!
 Wit' de skiff full o' toy an' St. Nicklus behin'.
Den on top de porch roof it soun' like de hail,
W'en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

 Den down de chimney I yell wit' a bam,
 An' St.Nicklus fall an' sit on de yam.
 "Sacre!" he axclaim, "Ma pant got a hole
 I done sot ma'se'f on dem red hot coal."

 He got on his foots an' jump like de cat
Out to de flo' where he lan' wit' a SPLAT!
 He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
 An' his clothes is all dirty wit' ashes an' soot.

 A sack full o' playt'ing he t'row on his back,
He look like a burglar an' dass fo' a fack.
 His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

 His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
 On secon' t'ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
 Wit' snow-white chin whisker an' quiverin' belly,
He shook w'en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

 But a wink in his eye an' a shook o' his head
 Make my confi-dence dat I don't got to be scared.
 He don' do no talkin' gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt'ing in sock an' den turn wit' a jerk.

 He put bot' his han' dere on top o' his head,
 Cas' an eye on de chimney an' den he done said:
 "Wit' all o' dat fire an' dem burnin' hot flame,
 Me I ain' goin' back by de way dat I came."

 So he run out de do' an, he clim' to de roof,
 He ain' no fool, him for to make one more goof.
 He jump in his skiff an' crack his big whip,
 De' gator move down, An don' make one slip.

 An' I hear him shout loud as a splashin' he go,

"Merry Christmas to all 'til I saw you some mo'!"

 by Trosclair

If you are local stop by the Gertrude C. Ford Center on the Ole Miss campus and take a look at the local supporters for this years Gingerbread Village . Admission is free, but people are encouraged to share a canned good or non perishable food item for families in need.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

XLEAR SparkX Candy Review

We recently had the opportunity through Moms Meet  to review a candy that is actually beneficial instead of detrimental to our bodies and especially our teeth. These little gems are sweetened completely with xylitol, another form of sweetener that is plant based and natural.

Before reviewing the product itself and giving you our opinions, here is a list of several of the benefits of using Xylitol, and the Xlear products.

  • Xylitol is a plant based, dentist recommended sweetener that has been proven to improve dental health and strengthen tooth enamel.
  • Xylitol is safe for individuals on a sugar-controlled diet because it doesn't interfere with the body's sugar or insulin levels.
  • Xlear SparX is sweetened naturally with xylitol.
  • Xlear SparX candy comes in a variety of flavors that are all free of artificial colors and flavors: Berry, Citrus and Fruit.
  • The suggested retail price is just $1.49 a tube.

My Thoughts:

I've know about the benefits of xylitol for several years now, but had not been introduced to XLEAR products before. The package came in recently and I forgot about it for a while. When I remembered that the review had to be done I found the tubes almost empty. Our kids found them and apparently enjoyed them. So I tested them to see if these were something worthy of exploring and I have to say I really liked them. One interesting thing that I found was that the candy has a cooling effect when you bite into them. They are very sweet and have a really good flavor. The flavors and colors are natural which I am very excited about, and the ingredient list is not three feet long and full of chemicals and dyes like some other candies. Personally my favorite was the Citrus flavor. The others were a little too sweet, and would love to see a version that was actually closer to a sweet tart and not as sweet.

Another benefit that I really like is that it does not affect insulin levels. Being pregnant with gestational diabetes, can be difficult when you have a sweet tooth. Having a couple of these does not affect my blood sugar numbers or affect the insulin that has to be taken so I can still enjoy a little sweet treat sometimes. 

We also received Kids Spry Tooth Gel with our package and I really love this too. The ingredient list is very short, can be read and understood, does not contain dyes, artificial flavors, or fluoride.

The Kids' Thoughts:
We have 4 children. Every one of them really liked these. Even the tube packaging. They also liked the Citrus flavor best. The only problem I saw with them was how fast they ate them. Which I guess is only a testament to how good they are.


We will definitely be getting more of these products in the future as well as trying some of the other products offered by this company. My kids are begging to have their own tubes of candy, so we may have to include them in the Christmas stockings...shhhh! 

You can find information on SparkX candy and the other products at the XLEAR website. or connect with them on facebook.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet Program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet Blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I love fall...I'm sure I have said it before, but it is just the best time of year. Cool weather has been sneaking in here in North Mississippi! Which means Gumbo Time for us! So glad we made a quick trip home for some festival fun with the kids and to pick up the necessary stuff that we just can't find here. We really need to build a smokehouse here, on my ever growing to do list here on the mini homestead.

Here is a version that has evolved over the years...I am not quite sure you can call it a recipe because sometimes it is hard to actually measure in Cajun learn by watching, tasting, and adjusting the meal until you get it where you want it. Growing up many meals were prepared with dashes, pinches, and splashes instead of teaspoons and cups. Many times the meals are never the same as the time before, but always wonderful.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

1-2 Chickens cut into pieces. You can also use boneless pieces too to make it easier, but be sure to use both dark and white meat. Note: the whole chicken with the bones makes a difference in my opinion more flavorful.

½ -1 lb smoked sausage. You can use some fresh sausage also. If you can’t find real smoked sausage adding a bit of liquid smoke helps to make the flavor more authentic….not exactly the same though

½-1 lb Tasso(smoked pork meat) It can be left out if you can’t find it.

2/3 pint of roux or more depending on how dark or thick you like your gumbo

2-3 onions chopped

2 Bell Peppers chopped

2-4 stalks of celery chopped

4-6 cloves of garlic

Salt, pepper, and or Cajun Seasoning to taste

2-3 cups of uncooked rice depending on how much rice you like in your gumbo and how many people are eating.

Chopped parsley about a bunch

Chopped green onions about 6

Hot Sauce if needed

First using a large gumbo pot, start boiling your water or stock about 6 quarts. Stir in your roux making sure that it has all dissolved and does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Sometimes it helps to heat the roux first in the pot then slowly add the water/stock to the pot to make sure it is dissolved. Bring this to a boil and cook while you prepare the other ingredients.

Season chicken with Cajun seasoning and brown in a large heavy bottom skillet, it doesn’t have to be cooked through just to get a start on the outside. Add the sausage and  tasso cut into bite sized pieces, and if using fresh sausage cook with chicken first then slice into pieces. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. You can add the sausage and tasso to the gumbo pot, not the chicken.  
Add all the chopped vegetables (onions, peppers, celery, garlic, NOT parsley or green onions) to the pan that you browned the meat in and sauté until the vegetables are wilted and slightly caramelized, but not burned. It is important to brown all ingredients before throwing into the gumbo pot…it adds another layer of flavor which is the key to Cajun cooking …layers of flavor. You can’t rush good cooking. When done add to gumbo pot and let everything cook for a while. 30 minutes – 1 hour. Test for seasoning and add if needed.

Add the chicken last so that it doesn’t over cook and fall apart in the pot. Wait until the last 30 minutes of cooking time.

Just before serving, add the parsley, and green onions. Be sure to test for seasoning again.

Cook a pot of rice to serve with the gumbo.

Sides that go with gumbo
Potato Salad
Baked Sweet Potatoes/Yams
French bread with butter and garlic

Note: if you are serving it to company cook the day or two before put it in the refrigerator, skim the excess oil from the top after it is chilled(there will be some, there is always some extra oil on the top of the gumbo). Doing this will help the flavors to combine better; it is always better the next time. Reheat and serve. Freeze left overs for another time and it is even better.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Noah Turns 7

Today is Noah's 7th birthday! My sweet precocious child with a heart that is bigger than he is; he has been a joy to watch as he grows and changes into a wonderful young man. He has a love and zest for life that I love to see. He is rough and tumble and sometimes goes overboard, but has a sensitivity that is uncommon. He can and will go out of his way to make sure that people around him are happy and smiling, is a great hugger and loves to make sure you know you are loved.
He loves nature, animals, his friends around him, and is always wanting to do something to make things better for everyone around him. He spends time with his brother and sister reading them books and playing games. Loves building and creating things; his skills with Lego and building with other blocks is amazing. He will spend hours(days) working space ships, bases, and towers that are equipped with trap doors, lookout holes, armories, bedrooms, booby traps, escape hatches, movable walls, and the list just goes on.
He is adventurous and sometimes a little too fearless. He loves being a Cub Scout and all that comes with it. He doesn't always like to do what he is told, and can be very defiant; but when you give him a task or a job to do he works hard and always puts in his best effort to make sure that it is done well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

German Potato Salad

I am not sure if it is a change in the weather, the fact that October is just around the corner, or some of those pregnancy hormones  are kicking in and making me crave things, but I have been wanting this for about two weeks now. It was one of my favorites as a child and still is. So tonight Matt is grilling pork chops and I am making German Potato Salad and sauteed cabbage with onions and bacon.

German Potato Salad
  • 6-8 medium red potatoes, scrubbed
  • 3 slices of Thick cut bacon, cooked and diced
  • ½c apple cider vinegar
  • ½c - 1c water
  • 3½ Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼-1/2tsp black pepper
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced (optional)
  1. Place potatoes in a large pot and fill with water until potatoes are completely covered by 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and cook until mostly tender, about 10 - 15 minutes. I try not to cook them too long because if they are not too soft they are easier to cut. 
  2. Drain and allow to cool before peeling and slicing into ¼” thick slices. I don't bother peeling potatoes.
  3. In a pot, saute onions in some of the bacon drippings. Cook until translucent and add potatoes cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Here is where I cook mine a little different: measure sugar and stir into water until it is melted. Add to pot along with vinegar and bacon.  Stir it all up well  and let it cook until the potatoes are as tender as you would like it and the "dressing" has cooked down and thickened into a sauce; about 10 minutes. I like doing this instead of making the dressing separate and tossing it into the potatoes, because the potatoes have time to absorb the flavors and the dressing thickens with the potato starch instead of adding flour, starch or other thickeners.
  5. Serve warm. 
Note: The water is listed as 1/2 to 1 cup of water. If while cooking the potatoes look dry add a little water as needed. Also, if you like your dressing sweeter or tangier, adjust with the vinegar and sugar, just add a little of each until you get it the way you like.

It is an easy recipe that I wish I would remember to use more often.
If you try it out let me know what you think. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Catching up

The younger kids learning about
mixing colors to make new colors.
Looks like it's has been a while since our last post. We had a nice and busy summer. The kids are now back in school. Nathan is entering his first year of Middle School this year. Noah is beginning Second grade. Jacob is beginning Kindergarten, and Evelyn is hanging out, practicing her language and communication skills and just being cute in general. 
Evelyn helping to adjust
  Nathan's neck slide. 

Scouting is now back in full swing, meetings, projects, belt loops, badges, selling popcorn, outings. Nathan is in Boy Scouts, but he is also helping out as Den Chief for Noah's Cub Scout group.

Some of the new baby chicks
New additions since the summer time. We now have some ducks, and this week we got another order of chickens; we normally wait until the spring, but since we are expecting another baby we figured that having our peepers in the fall would be a better idea. This batch of chickens also includes several extra roosters that we will be using as meat birds. 

Plans are in the works for a new and bigger chicken coop. One thing that I really want to figure out is how to split the run(hopefully expanded a bit bigger) so that we can keep grass or other types of green things growing on it, mostly because I do not like the mud pit that the girls have created it is very messy when it rains. Also, because I really want the girls to be happy when they are not able to free range; grass, seeds, yummy bugs = happy and cleaner chickens. The extra roosters are going to need a shelter too, we just haven't completely figured that one out yet. The ducklings are hanging out with the chickens in the run, but they could stand to be a little less messy too, I guess we will have to put them in etiquette classes. 
Our duck so full of cuteness.

The garden didn't go over too well this year. We got a few tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, a couple of watermelons, lots of kale, spinach, and swiss chard. The rest failed because of the heat, and our visiting deer.  She must have been desperate this year, besides eating the pepper plants, tomatoes, tomato plants, purple hull peas, and snap beans, it also ate my okra and the okra plants. We will keep trying, hopefully next year will be better. 

Canning was minimal this year. We were able to put up some tomatoes, blackberry jelly, and jalapenos(pickled pepper jelly, and cowboy candy). Dehydrating started out well and slowly stopped over the summer, but we did get strawberries, peaches, cherry tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots, and some fruit leather. We are getting closer to true pantry storage, it has quite a learning curve to change your lifestyle.
Liquid Soap during the cooking stage

Soap is back into production...slow, but steady. We have several new batches curing, and new batches of liquid soap has been made and is now sitting ready to be bottled and scented. We have also started making Bath Salts to go with the soaps, I am looking forward to making coordinating products that could be packaged together for gift bags, baskets and packages. I think my next trial will be solid lotion bars; hoping to have these ready for Christmas stocking stuffers.
New batch of Patchouli Lavender

Well That's all on the home front for now...What have you been doing now that fall is approaching?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Our Epic Journey of 2012

The best seat
in the house.
We recently came home from our first vacation in seven years! Big trips are something that we don't do very often, but we figured that it would be great to do something different with the kids this year. Usually our summer vacation involves visiting family which is always wonderful because we have moved away from all of our family and don't see them nearly as often as we would like. This year we chose to go to Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was a trip that my parents took us on when I was a young teenager and it stood out as one of the most memorable, exciting, and fun of our annual trips because it was very different, and like my dad, I have a love of history and enjoy visiting lots of the historical places. This area is amazing from the mountains, caves, historical sites, and a wonderful downtown to explore there is never enough time to do everything in one trip.

So our first stop on the trip was to The Natural Bridge Formation in Natural Bridge, Alabama. We were about at the half way mark to Chattanooga and we stopped there to have a picnic lunch. The kids had fun throwing bread for the fish and got an extra treat when a large snapping turtle came up and grabbed the bread. We then went through the park and explored the trails and went to see the bridge. This bridge is the largest natural bridge formation east of the Rockies.
Snapping Turtle
Boys waiting to go on a hike.

That evening, later than we expected, always remember to add time to trips because of unscheduled stops, getting turned around and missing exits. We arrived in Chattanooga and checked into the hotel, and had supper.

On Tuesday we started our journey by going to Point Park Lookout Mountain Battlefield.

Small view of  Battlefield Scale Model
 We saw the scale model show/exhibit and headed out to explore the battlefield. We happened to get there in time for the tour with the park ranger. While he was talking the clouds began to roll in everything darkened and the thunder and lightning could be seen in the distance, lightning struck way too close for comfort, so the tour guide had to finish his speech inside.

View From Point Park at
 Lookout Mountain Battlefield
We waited out the rain for a bit and tried to go walk the battle field when the rain looked like it was stopping. It slowed just long enough for us to get across the street before the pour down started again. Needless to say, our trip to the Battlefield was cut short. Wet, tired and hungry we decided to have lunch and go visit the Aquarium.
The Aquarium was fun, and dry. The kids really enjoyed all the tanks. There were two separate buildings, one for salt water and one for fresh water. I think they liked the sharks and jellyfish best. Noah was very impressed to see the Alligator gars and Catfish that were bigger than him.
Walnut Street Bridge was the next closest thing to see so we headed there. This amazing bridge was built in 1890, and was the first non military highway to cross the Tennessee River. It was closed to traffic in 1978 and was reclaimed and restored about 10 years later as a pedestrian bridge to connect Chattanooga to the North Shore. It is currently one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.

 So we walked to the other side and Noah and Jacob played in the large water fountain that we found on the other side. Unfortunately because of weather we were not able to ride the Dentzel Carousel. It is a antique carousel that was built in 1894 that has been completely restored. After walking the kids down the bridge and back they were worn out and ready for supper.

The next day was our trip to Ruby Falls and Rock City. Everyone was really excited about this tour and couldn't wait to see the inside of a cave. 
The entrance to 
Ruby Falls
Although we had to rein them in a bit(keep Noah and Jacob from climbing the walls, literally) it was lots of fun.
Our little spelunker.
The boys gave her a
yellow hat she had
 other ideas.
 The features and formations in this cave are amazing and some of them were even humorous, some of them were shaped like a cactus, candle, fish, potato chips, and an elephant's foot. One of the most interesting things was the drum that one of the tour guides pointed out. It was a hollow place along one of the walls that echoed when you tapped it with your hands. 

The light at the end of the
 tunnel so to speak.
...and of course when we leave Ruby Falls to see Rock City...yes, you guessed it...more rain. So we decided to go for a train ride instead and hoped that we would get a break in the weather later. 

Train Station Ticket Window

Our Train
The train trip was exciting, especially keeping the kids from hanging out of the windows. The took us over a bridge and through a tunnel that was built during Civil War times, and then on to the East Chattanooga Train Station. 

Watching the scenery go by
This station is only in operation for the railroad museum. It has a turn around that would switch the direction of the engines at the end of the line so that the trains could head back down the route. 
The train stations had lots of old trains representing different periods of histroy to explore, but because of rain we just looked at the trains as we quickly made it back to our car. 

Fortunately, as we began to drive back toward Rock City, there was a break in the clouds and the sun came out to visit. 
Rock City here we come! This was probably my favorite part of the trip to explore. 

The landscape, scenery, walking trails, and features were absolutely beautiful, and although there was one really campy part of the tour having to do with gnomes and fairy tales(it was cute and fun for the kids), overall it was the most enjoyable part of the trip for me.

That was our trip for this year. There were so many things that we didn't get to that we now have a list to see if we get to go back again. First on the list is the Chattanooga Hotel, walking downtown Chattanooga and other trails like along the river and up on Lookout Mountain, The Passage(monument for the Trail of Tears), The Historical and battle sites(too many to list), The Cravens House, The National Cemetery, The Confederate Cemetery, The Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center, Zip Line and Obstacle Courses, White Water Rafting, Hang Gliding, River Boat Tours, lots of caves and caverns to explore in surrounding towns, The Lost City, Dinners on the River, Train Rides to area towns, Chattanooga History Center, The Creative Discovery Museum, Rock Wall Climbing, The Art Museums, The art District, mini golf... 

This area is full of things to do if you have the time to do it and the weather cooperates. Some of the stuff available wasn't appropiate for the ages of our children, but there is something for every age. There are even some award winning Golf Courses in the area.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Going Offline for a Short Time

Because of some re-arranging of house and furniture, etc. I am going to be taking our computer offline for an unknown amount of time. If you need to get in touch for anything, I can be reached at 662.801.1755. I always return calls even though I do not immediately answer the call.

Anyone that is interested in soap or eggs can always call and arrange pick-up/drop-off with us.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer, I think this is great timing for me to get a much needed break from too much computer use, and get some much needed time doing projects with the kids and around the house.

See you all soon!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Years Old...

Happy Birthday Evelyn!

 Our sweet baby girl turns 2 today!

One year Old
What a complete joy she has been! I have to admit she was a big surprise for us and after having three boys we were a bit apprehensive about entering the world of princess and the life of girl. 

About 15 Months: All dressed
and ready for Tea.
It has been wonderful getting to know this beautiful, bright, energetic, little bundle since we brought her home from the hospital. She has us all wrapped around those short, chubby little two year old fingers. 
About 18 Months: Loves her
pretty princess dress
 Even the boys have fallen under her manipulative little spell. Her smile and the twinkle in her eyes has just captured all our hearts. 

21Months Old: Sword Play
She is all girl(well mostly at least)she is all about pink and princess, loves her babies and playing tea. She can even get the boys(Daddy included) to sit and play tea party or have a picnic. She doesn't like bugs and is very cautious around the critters that the boys bring home...but she can sword fight like a seasoned veteran and loves digging in the dirt, exploring in the woods, and helping in the garden.
23 Months: Garden Helper

20 Months: Daddy Love
Evelyn loves her Momma it's easy to see, because she is never far from my side or my lap, but she knows she has an extra special place in her Daddy's heart and it is very obvious. It is so very sweet to see the two of them together. She has a very special love for her daddy and I love watching the two of them interact. 

23Months: Happy Smiles
This past year it has been lots of fun to watch her grow from the wobbly little tot to the sweet little girl who loves to dance and twirl into the kitchen when she needs to make an entrance. She has started talking a lot later than the boys did. Probably because she was so good at directing everyone to what she needed with just a look, but in the past few weeks she has been picking up so many new words. Her quest for new words is really cute too. She brings things to us so that we can tell her what they are then she tries to repeat the words. This week colors are her favorite thing to explore. I think her favorite is least that's the one she says the most.

23Months: Evelyn Loves
her Papa
Love and Birthday Blessings to you our little girl. Thank you for two beautiful years and many more in the future. You have made our life brighter, funnier, and happier just by being here. You are smart, witty, charming, and loving, full of sweetness and so very cuddly. We love you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nothing Says Lovin' Like Blackberry Pie

The fruits of the season, I love this time of year. It is the best time of year for so many fresh fruits and vegetables...especially wild fruits. I remember growing up how much fun it was to go out and find wild blackberries, and pecans, going fishing or crabbing...all in their respective seasons of course.We would pack a lunch and go out for the day armed with lots and lots of old gallon sized ice cream buckets. Yes, there were always the little inconveniences that you always had to deal with...the bugs, the heat, the briers, getting fussed at for being hot, tired and ready to go way too early. These trips always instilled something in us that I will definitely do my best to pass on to my children...a love and respect for nature, a knowledge of where our food comes from, a sense of gratefulness, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with the harvesting of  food. 

After a day of picking, many times our grandmother was with us, we would go back to my grandparents house and Ma-mom would immediately start working on a pie dough. There was nothing better than unpacking, sorting rinsing and packing all of our finds while the smell of fresh blackberry pie filling was cooking on the stove. So yesterday, since I didn't have quite enough berries to make blackberry preserves, I made a pie like Ma-mom would have made. 

So Back to the subject at hand:

The Pie!
Blackberry Pie

Pie Filling:
5-6 cups of bzlackberries

1/2 - 3/4 cup of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries and your personal taste.)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 table spoons of corn starch(or other thickener)
a little water

Pie Dough:
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of butter cut into small chunks
1/4-1/2 cup of ice water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract(optional)

Make the filling: On the stove combine the sugar, water and lemon juice and cook and stir on low heat until sugar is melted. Add the berries bringing to a boil and cooking until the water is reduced. Add the corn starch mixed with a little water and stir until it comes back to a boil and thickens. Set aside to cool a bit.

Make pie dough: Put flour in the mixing bowl and add small chunks of cold butter cut the butter in with two knives or a pastry cutter(or use a food processor for that step) until it reaches the consistency of a coarse cornmeal.  Slowly add the water just until it comes together and forms a ball you may or may not need all of the water. Chill the dough up to an hour to let the butter cool and the gluten in the flour relax. Cut the dough in half and leave half in the fridge until you use it. Roll out the bottom crust  and put it into the pan. Add the pie filling. Roll out the top crust if you want to make it decorative you can use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes, or cut out strips and make a lattice top by weaving the pieces on top.

Bake the pie at 350 degrees F. until the crust is just beginning to brown on the edges, about 15 min. depending on your oven.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Foraging in the Woods Today

Today Nathan discovered that the Farkle Berries(Sparkle Berry, Tree Huckleberry) were beginning to ripen, so we went on a foraging expedition around our woods.

 It took a while to figure out exactly what kind of berry we had and to find out if they were even edible...But I am almost positive that it is a Farkle Berry. 
As far as the edible-ness of them, we like them. They are blueberry like, a little tart, a little sweet, not lots of flavor, but fun to pick and great for wildlife. 

The tree is very attractive all year round. The leaves are green shiny and oval and they often turn orange and red in the keeps some of it's leaves even in the winter. 
The bark is a peeling type that is smooth and redish-orange. In the spring bunches of little bell/lantern shaped flowers hang from the branches and the fruits start to ripen in early June just like blueberries. The trees are full of many tiny green fruits right now that the kids are anxiously waiting to ripen so that they can pick. 

We used some of them yesterday in a fruit salad that we made with peaches, plums, and a sprinkle of the berries for color. I think the rest of them will be made into muffins.

In addition to our farkle berry find, we also picked up a few blackberries, and some wild cherries. Sadly, there really aren't enough blackberries to do much with except eat off of the branches, and most of the cherries are so high in the tree that we just can't get to them, but the birds are really enjoying them. So we are enjoying the ones that we could reach and hope to find more soon. If you look closely in the cherries Nathan also found a pint sized friend for us to play with for a while.