Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jan. Prairie Primer: "The Long Winter"

We just finished up "The Long Winter" and I have to say I enjoyed it much better as an adult that I did as a child. I used to always skip that book in the series. Now, I find it a fascinating story of perseverance and survival. I'm so glad it worked out that the month of January was when we read this book as the weather around here in Eastern Oregon provided us with many "hands on" practical study time that applied to what we were learning. Josiah took this pictures of me in the apron my neighbor helped me sew. We made it out of a sham I got at a yard sale. I love it!  It should fit nicely with my hoop skirt, too. Although, it was so cold and nasty out, I chose to wear my wool split skirt. This is my "company's coming" apron. I have enough material to make a couple more work aprons, I just need to do it!

At our Prairie Primer Co-Op meeting, we learned about the properties of "ginger water" that Laura and Pa drank while putting up their hay in the hot weather. It was like "pioneer Gatorade . It consisted of water, brown sugar and chunks of ginger. It wasn't the kid's favorite, but they were good sports and gave it a try. I have a recipe that is very similar, that I actually like better than what we tried at the co-op meeting. It is called "Switchel"
Hailey, reciting Proverbs 6:6-9.  Each kid got a little treat for knowing it. A little competition with each other helps with the motivation factor, too ;) I love this coat I got her at a second hand shop. It almost matches the one I got from my grandma (see below). 
The kids and I did a presentation on emergency preparedness kits.
The younger kids made paper quilt blocks. 
The older kids sat in a sewing circle and stitched pieces of burlap together with yarn. They practiced keeping their stitches small and even. I love seeing all these boys into it, too.

One of the students brought the violin she got for Christmas to show us. I'm so excited for her. Hope she'll be playing a tune for us soon.

One of the earlier activities we forwent was a reading a book about the California gold rush. I was waiting to try to find a book I had read in elementary school but I couldn't remember the name of it. My sister was letting her daughter read her diary from when she was a girl and low and behold, she mentioned the name of that book. It is called The Golden Venture by Jane Flory. I quickly found a couple of used copies on Amazon (one for me and one for my sis) and I'm happy to report that the book was every bit as good as I remembered! My kids were asking me to read it  constantly, and I wasn't fast enough, so Josiah read on ahead. I decided to buy some more used books by Jane Flory and hope they are as good as this one. The second meeting of the month was really fun, too. We learned about telegraphs and Morse code which were extremely important to the expansion of the West and to the people of Desmet, SD, as they were able to know that the train wasn't able to make it because of the huge snow drifts on the tracks.

A homeschool dad who collects old lanterns came in and gave us the run down on how they work and how to tell a lantern's age. He told us the difference between a "cold lamp" and a "hot lamp". A hot lamp recycles the air over and over and a cold lamp doesn't. The cold lamp burns the brightest. He said the Ingalls would have use the hot lamp style. It was a very interesting presentation. Anything to do with fire and you got the kid's attention!Our family did a presentation on whole wheat verses white bread. I made a loaf of each. I've never made white bread before and it was a disaster. This loaf was my second attempt and it turned out more like a biscuit. It actually turned out to be a great way to promote whole wheat bread! I loved the way the Prairie Primer points out how Laura was so tired of whole wheat bread, because the only available bread was the whole grain bread. It was a perfect example of how God sometimes doesn't give us what we ask for but gives us what we need instead. The whole wheat bread provided vitamins, minerals, protein and ruffage that the white bread was absent of. I wrote a post about this subject awhile ago. Click here for that.
It was potluck day and we all brought foods mentioned in the Long Winter.

 I was asked to bring roasted ox tail and brown gravy. What an adventure! I happened to have an ox tail in the freezer that I was saving for making broth. I had never thought about roasting it before. It was quite a tasty treat for the starving pioneers in Desmet, SD. I can see why. It was delicious! We didn't show the kids what they were eating until after the meal was over and they had all pronounced the meat delicious. There were many groans after they saw what they were eating, LOL. It made me feel good when Margie Gray, who is the author of the Prairie Primer, left a comment on the Prairie Primer Facebook support group, saying that I was the only person she's known of to have actually make ox tail as described in the book. I just love fun and different culinary adventures!Another very brown meal. The Ingalls would have qualified just one of these items as a meal. In comparison, we had a feast! White and brown bread at the top, baked beans, ox tail with brown gravy and boiled potatoes. Not pictured was the amazing apple raisin pie that my friend, Beth, made.. We really wanted to try a "green pumpkin" pie, that Pa declared tasted a lot like apple pie, but we couldn't find a green pumpkin in January in Eastern Oregon.
I was soooo happy when the two moms who had yet to dress up for our co-op meetings, came in all their "old-time feminine glory"! I love it! The kids really enjoy it when their moms dress up, too. I know it means a lot to my kids.

Well, another month down. It's going way too fast! We've already started Little Town On The Prairie, and look forward to doing a school exhibition for our meeting in Feb. 

God Bless,

Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Bright Red Blessing!

 After wrecking our truck Christmas Eve while coming home from snowmobiling, we had some big choices to make. Actually, I left this decision completely up to my husband. He waited a month before deciding what to do, driving the wrecked truck to work when he had to. Definitely a conversation starter. In fact he had decided to go ahead and fix the wrecked truck himself because it would have been cheaper than buying a different truck as we couldn't find anything in our price range.

As he was getting the alignment done, he was reading the local auto advertisements and saw a the same style of truck (2 years older and with 100,000 more miles on it) for a price that was doable even though we would have to get a loan for part of it. We really need two vehicles because Michael's job is just far enough out of town to make it really difficult when the kids and I have to be somewhere during the week.
So we decided to bite the bullet. The good news is that because the styles are the same, we were able to switch over everything from our old truck to this "new" truck, including the lift kit, tires, cup holder, front bumper with winch and 4 inch exhaust. He's going to switch over the running boards next.

God blessed me again because he knows how much I love a red vehicle :) We hate to go into debt, but we praise God we were able to pay over half down in cash thanks to the emergency fund we had started as suggested by Dave Ramsey. It has been 12 years since we've had a loan on anything other than our house, but we really prayed about it and both had a peace. Getting it paid off as quickly as possible will be our focus. In the meantime, we are back to having two vehicles that the children can safely ride in.

Just had to share what God has done for us!

God Bless,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homeschool Sledding Party

Last weekend we had such a wonderful time sledding with our homeschool support group. The ride up and back was not so fun as Hailey is pretty scared about driving on ice/snow after our recent wreck. She is really scared of tipping over. It breaks my heart, but I'm praying for healing there. We were able to purchase a older truck this last weekend to replace our old one. Pictures soon, I hope!

It was 17 degrees at the summit, but nice and sunny. So wonderful after the inversion we've been having in our valley. We had a big fire to keep us all warm. We were up there for probably 3 hours.

One homeschool family brought this large inner tube. The kids had so much fun on it!

Josiah in his Russian rabbit fur hat. Speaking of Russians, the other day Josiah says to me in his best Russian accent, "Don't rush me Mother, for I am not a Russian!"

Josiah in the tube.

Josiah was pretending that this chunk of ice and frozen snow was a "snow bull", so he decided to ride it. "Let 'r Buck!" 

Getting warm and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

The only sad thing was that the Nutella we were using for s'mores froze. The advantage is that it broke off in big chunks so you got more that way ;o) 

Last shot of Hailey riding an inner tube with her friends Reese and Briella. They were so cute! At the end of the day, Hailey got brave and hiked clear to the top of the hill all by herself and slid down it so fast, she looked like grass through a goose. She was laughing when she got to the bottom. Maybe our little thrill-seeker is back ;o) 

God Bless,

Friday, January 18, 2013

Molasses-On-Snow Candy

The kids have been waiting and waiting and it finally snowed enough around here to make Molasses-On-Snow Candy! Ever since reading about it in "Little House In the Big Woods", they've been looking forward to it because they wanted to use real snow. As always, I will share our successes as well as our mistakes in this post. This is the first time I've ever attempted to make candy of any kind.  It is a very simple process, but it takes a long time to get to the "hard-crack" stage. 

"Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas...One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they mad a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams on to the snow. 
They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and were candy."

Makes 3/4 lb of candy:
Molasses, 1 cup
Brown sugar (I used sucanat), 1/2 cup
Two or three pans of freshly fallen snow (can used finely crushed ice)

Fill your pans with snow and keep them outside while cooking. My son got anxious and brought them in too soon, which made the snow very wet and soggy.

In a medium sauce pan, mix the molasses and sugar together and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmering boil, stirring frequently. Warning, this will take awhile. I think I gave up after a half hour. Wish I would have gone a little longer.

I'm a messy cook! I don't have a candy thermometer and I'm pretty sure Ma didn't either, so we used the old "drop the candy into some ice water and see if it cracks" trick. 

I only had the patience to wait for it to harden when it hit the cold water, but I didn't stick with it until it actually cracked. My bad, as it ended up kind of chewy and not real crunchy like you would imagine it to be. Oh well, it still had good flavor even if our teeth were stuck together :)

I let the kids loose as they had fun making all kinds of shapes as well as stringing it around the floor (that part was on accident).  Thank goodness it was easy to clean up. Some moms let their kids paint. I'm hate paint, but I love to do arts and crafts with food.

Tip: Try to make the squigglies bigger because the little ones melt really fast if they are wet.

We immediately removed the candy unto unbleached parchment paper. However, we neglected to knock off the snow. Therefore half of our candy had liquidated by the morning. So make sure you get it as dry as you can when removing it from the snow. 

We brought the bigger chunks that survived to the co-op and I can't say it was a raving hit, but it was fun to try anyway and I was pleased that my kids liked the flavor. We will definitely be doing this again and next time I'm sure we'll have better results. So there you have it, just keepin' it real and hoping you will learn from my mistakes :) 

Blessings to You All,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jackie's Haggis Recipe

I'm not much of a haggis fan, but my husband and children are, as well as several good friends. Michael helped butcher some sheep this fall and he saved all the typical parts most people throw away so we could make haggis for the Hogmanay party we had on New Year's Eve. Here is a picture of my hubby cutting into the haggis at at our Hogmanay celebration. I found several recipes on-line, but none that I thought I could handle eating, so I decided to tone my haggis down and make it much more savory.  It isn't like you can taste test this as you go along to see if it has good flavor or not. After making it, I decided to adjust my recipe and make it even MORE savory so I could "stomach" it better next time, no pun intended. We had the innards from 6 sheep, so we made A LOT. 

My son enjoyed helping grind the innards using the grinder attachment on our Kitchen Aid. Make sure all are washed and cleaned very well. 

Jackie's Haggis Recipe:
1 lb ground hamburger, lamb or sausage (I'm going to use sausage next time to help cover the liver flavor)
1/2 sheep's liver, ground (or a whole if you happen to enjoy that flavor, you can also add kidneys)
sheep's heart, ground
sheep's tongue, ground
testicles, ground (optional- well any of this is optional I suppose, LOL)
2 finely chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups toasted old fashioned oats
1 Tbl sea salt or 1 1/2 tsp if using sausage
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp sucanat or brown sugar
1/2 tsp ginger, ground
1/4 tsp cloves, ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 cup beef broth
1 sheep's stomach

1. Rinse sheep's stomach thoroughly and soaked overnight in cold salt water, then rinsed again when ready to use.
2. Grind all of the meat and organs (except the stomach).
3. Combine all of the ingredients above (except the stomach) and mix well until mixture binds. Moisten with more broth if needed. See picture below for what the haggis filling should end up looking like. 

 4. Fill the stomach about 2/3 full with haggis mixture. As you can see below, you can get several haggis out of one sheep's stomach. The stomach is huge! If you are feeding a crowd (4 or 5lbs) or feeding a few (1 to 2 lbs), it will determine how much of the mixture you want to stuff the stomach with. Pinch the stomach closed and tie tightly with some cotton string and cut the stomach. Also, be sure to pierce the stomach several times with a fork after it is stuffed and tied to keep the haggis from bursting.

 5. Place haggis in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Gently boil for 3 hours.
We cut the stomach too close to the tied string and the stomach burst open while cooking, but luckily it didn't compromise the haggis.

 It is always wise to serve something else like steak pie in case the haggis is not a hit. People either love it or hate it.
My son, loved it!

He even tried eating the stomach, but he wasn't a big fan of that. Oh, my daughter informed me it was good with ketchup, so there you have it. Hey, we're American, so it works ;o) Everything is better with ketchup, especially my homemade ketchup.

Well that is my "watered down" version of haggis. I have a feeling I will be making many more of these in the future. Let me know if you have any questions. 

Oh and if you ever try this, you simply have to read this poem by Robert Burns before slicing into it: 

Address to a Haggis (Translation)

Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm steaming, rich!

Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old head of the table, most like to burst, 
'The grace!' hums.

Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?

Poor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off
Like the heads of thistles.

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer, 
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!

God Bless,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cranachan with Raspberries and Whole Wheat Shortbread - A Traditional Scottish Recipe

Our family celebrated "Hogmanay" this year which is a Scottish New Year celebration. See this post for details. Traditionally, there is a lot of alcohol involved, just like New Years celebrations in the USA, but we decided to make this a fun, family-friendly celebration. I did a lot of research on traditional Scottish foods and I found a Cranachan recipe I tweaked to make alcohol-free (usually it has 1 Tbl whiskey in it). This stuff was a hit, especially after the haggis, LOL. The best part is that is was super easy to make!

Cranachan with Raspberries Recipe:

Cranachan Ingredients:
1 pint fresh or freshly frozen raspberries (thawed)
1 cup thick, raw cream
3 Tbl raw honey
1 tsp real vanilla
2 to 3 Tbl old fashioned oatmeal

1. Toast oatmeal until medium brown in the oven, cool completely
2. Sweeten raspberries with honey to taste, being careful not to bang them up.

 3. Mix cream, vanilla and honey together in a mixer on highest setting until nice and thick.
4. Gently fold in the toasted oatmeal into the whipped cream.5. Put a generous spoonful of raspberries at the bottom of a pretty glass, then spoon out the whipped cream and oatmeal mixture over the raspberries. 

6. Top with a few more raspberries and shortbread cookies. I happened to have these shortbread cookies on hand, but I look forward to making my own healthy shortbread cookies using the following recipe the next time:

Whole Wheat/Unrefined Sugar Shortbread Recipe:
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cup salted butter (preferably raw)
3/4 to 1 cup sucanat or evaporated cane juice
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
turbinado or evaporated can juice for sprinkling

Cream butter and sucanat together using a mixer or food processor. Work the whole wheat pastry flour in until it is a firm paste, then knead it a few times on a cutting or pastry board that is well floured. Roll out and cut whatever shape(s) you want. Sprinkle with turbinado or evaporated can juice. Bake at 375F until cookies are start to look golden in color, approx 15 minutes. Cool on a cookie rack and store in an air-tight container. These are so yummy and you can hardly tell they are whole wheat. If you use sucanat, they will be naturally darker in color.


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