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Sad Day

Yesterday was such a sad day for me — A neighbor called to report that my special golden eyed white cat that I befriended a couple of years ago had been seen dead along the road. My husband searched for the cat, but a torrential rain had flooded the road and washed him away. We had bonded with this very distinctive cat that we fed daily and named him Whitey. Now Whitey is running freely with all the other spirits that have passed on. I can’t help looking out the front door hoping to see him, but in time I will accept the loss. Whitey was so loyal and yet so independent. I will miss him.

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Seventh Day

Today is Sunday, and so I thought I’d try to catch up on what’s been happening around here. I’ve been picking my zucchini squash blossoms so I could stuff them and fry them to eat. Yesterday I mixed up some shredded cheese, some tofutti, a little mayonnaise, and some middle eastern yogurt with a medley of chopped fresh herbs. I used sage, thyme, tarragon, peppermint, parsley, and chives. I stuffed each blossom with as much of the mixture it would hold without splitting. Then I folded the petals over the top and fried them in a little butter turning them as they browned a little. They were so delicious and each of the various flavors burst in your mouth while eating them. We had them along with some Russian Borscht that my husband made. The borscht was very much like venison stew and while tasty, unlike any borscht I’ve ever had before.

Today we’re back to broiled tandoor chicken, steamed green beans and some other delight for dinner.

I didn’t mention that a little wren made a nest in one of my baskets of Achimenes that I have growing on the porch banister. I thought some leaves had blown onto the plants and as I started to pick them off, I noticed that it wasn’t just a leaf or two, but rather an organized bunch of leaves, moss and other debris from around the yard. On closer examination I discovered it was a carefully constructed nest containing one egg. Now how am I to water that plant without disturbing the nest — very carefully I guess. The next day there were two eggs, then three the next and finally four. It’s been very hot and usually there isn’t a mother wren sitting on the nest, but in the morning she’s usually there. I question her choice of nest sites for more reasons than it’s a plant as we feed stray cats on the porch and one of them often sits on the banister. Didn’t this mother wren notice that? Now I guess I have to guard her nest when Whitey’s here. I know he will only do what he’s wired by mother nature to do. By this time next week I should be reporting baby wren hatchlings. I know they and the mother feeding them will gain Whitey’s attention. See wren nest in my plant below. I know it’s difficult to see, but I bet Whitey can find it easily.  It’s not easy getting a good picture without disturbing the mother wren.

Wren nest

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Over time I plan to discuss many unusual foods or food combinations that I have cooked and eaten. Some of these are wild, some are home grown and others were purchased at the grocery or specialty store. After giving this idea some thought, I’ve decided to make it seasonal but to present it so that you may try it. That means I’ll describe foods a little before they are available so you can have the recipe in hand before you gather it in the case of wild things. I will also try to add pictures of wild foods since identifying wild plants correctly is very important. For some wild foods the time you pick it is important too and that will be explained.

Our dinner last night and this evening is grilled venison burgers and vegetables. Last night we had more of the grilled eggplant like I described in a previous post. Tonight we’ll have a mixture of grilled eggplant, zucchini, home grown shiitake mushrooms and fresh mixed peppers (bell, Italian, hot and sweet, etc). We’re lucky in that we get plenty of venison each year and neither of us hunt. That means we have friends who love to hunt, but don’t eat all they get. I have found that it helps to can some venison and mixed vegetables to share with the hunters.  That has forced me to work on my canning techniques and it pleases the hunters to have something that all they do is heat and eat. I can pints of the venison meat cut up into cubes and can a mixture of vegetables in quarts. To make soup one just mixes a pint of meat with a quart of vegetables and seasons it to their own taste. Since the deer population is so large where I live, hunting is one way to lower their numbers to prevent overpopulation and a great way to get lean chemical free red meat (actually we pay to have the meat cut up and packaged — but you know what I mean). I have come to prefer vension over beef anyway. So all year long I make various vension dishes that have become family favorites. It is my intent to share some of those great recipes via my posts.

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This was my first post, but somehow it was deleted so I replaced it. Today I begin my postings — hoping someone out there will find it interesting. I’ve thought about this for a long time and don’t know exactly what my theme will be. Initially I thought I’d focus on wildfoods at first, but since have decided to broaden to a wider variety of things depending on my mood.

Yesterday and today I made some pickles so that’s today’s topic. Friday we bought some fresh produce at the local markets — we went with a plan to get some fresh veggies for meals. Lately we’ve been roasting veggies and making sandwiches with them, so that was what we had in mind. However, there were so many things that we bought green tomatoes, various types of eggplant, peppers and some cucumbers.

Once we were home, I sliced the green tomatoes, some peppers mostly sweet and some hot Italian ones along with some vidalia onion. Then I put them in cold salted water — 4 cups water to 1/4 cup non-iodized salt — and refrigerated them overnight. Yesterday morning I drained and rinsed the salted veggies and made up a vinegar solutions of 1 1/3 cups white vinegar, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 Tbsp. mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp. celery seeds and 1/2 Tbsp. turmeric. I brought the vinegar solution to a boil and then put the drained veggies in and brought it back to a boil. I ladled the “pickles” into pint wide mouth jars, covered them with the solutions and put lids on them to can. They were processed 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. They sure looked good in the jars — made me wish I’d done more.

After those sweet hot green tomato pickles were done, I washed and sliced my cucumbers and layeredd them in a wide mouth gallon jar sprinkling each layer w/ kosher salt (I used about 1/3 cup) and covered them with cold water and some ice. They spent the night in the refrigerator. Today I realized I meant to add onion and hot pepper to them, so I added that early this morning and let them sit another 5 hours. Then I thoroughly rinsed and drained them in three changes of water.My plan for these cucumbers is bread and butter pickles. I made up a vinegar solution of 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 2/3 cups sugar, l clove garlic sliced thin, 2 tsp. mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp celery seeds, 1/3 tsp. alum and 1 tsp. turmeric which I brought to a boil and then added the drained veggies and brought it back to a near boil before I ladled this into jars and processed 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Below you will see some of my freshly canned pickles. The two jars on top are the bread and butter pickles and the three bottom jars are some of my sweet hot green tomato pickles. You have to guess and play around to get the degree of hotness you like by trying different amounts of hot peppers (and even different types of peppers) so this is a matter of finding out what you like and keeping good notes. Unfortunately I didn’t plan to make pickles when I went shopping and so naturally I didn’t know what amounts I needed and I didn’t get enough. I only had 6 pints of green tomato pickles and 2 and 1/2 pints of bread and butter pickles. So my advice is to be prepared when you go shopping so you know the quantities you need. I had to adjust my recipes to accommodate the amount I had.

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This morning we went to monitor bluebird boxes. We found only one active bluebird nest with 4 eggs in one box. Two boxes had 2 stacked wren nests. One had 5 eggs and one had one egg. Another box had a tree swallow nest with one baby it it. All the other boxes were empty. Most of the boxes have a special plastic tube on the opening which is supposed to discourage snakes, but it looks like it discourages birds too. We took two of them off to see what happens.

Yesterday we went looking for chanterelle mushrooms in a state forest. We didn’t find any, but they were selling some at the local market that had been collected in the forest where we looked.

Last night we had tandoori chicken and grilled eggplant for dinner. The tandoor chicken is marinated in 3/4 cup greek yogurt mixed with water, 2Tbsp tandoor spices (from grocery store), 1 Tbsp. minced ginger, 2 large cloves minced garlic, 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 T vegetable oil (the recipe called for 1 Tbsp. dried fenugreek leaves which I didn’t have). Skinless chicken thighs were marinated overnight and then grilled.

The eggplant was sliced, then salted and allowed to sit about 45 min. (each side was done this way). After it sweated it was wiped off with a paper towel. Each slice was brushed with a mixture of 3 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar, 3 cloves minced garlic, salt and pepper. Other herbs can be added such as basil, cilantro, etc. It is then grilled on the gas grill.

This was one tasty meal that we’ll definitely have again.

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Unique Pie

Just a short addition to today’s posts, I forgot to mention I made an unusual pie this weekend. We recently visited a remote state park and one of their special pies was peach blueberry. So I decided to try my luck at making one. I cheated and used a store bought crust, but the rest was my own addition. I brushed the pie crust bottom with beaten egg white before I started the filling to let it seal. Last year I canned peaches in light syrup, so I took a quart of those peaches and drained the syrup. I added 2/3 cup lt. brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and a scant 2 Tbsp. white sugar, 1/4+ tsp. nutmeg, a big pinch cinnamon, a small pinch of ground cloves and 1 tsp. vanilla and then heated it stirring until it thickened. Then I added 1 Tbsp. butter and the blueberries which I heated well before adding the peaches.  I poured the blueberry-peach filling in and put on the top crust. I cut vents in the top and brushed the top with egg white and baked it about 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Be sure to cover the edges of the crust if they begin to darken. I think I might omit the cinnamon and cloves the next time to see if it tastes any better — although I must say this pie was very good as is.

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Confession

Okay first off, I actually began this post yesterday and decided to change to another site, so this is actually my second day of posting. Since I promised to add new stuff yesterday which I copied and pasted here, I’m  going to go on to the second posting right now.

Yesterday I mentioned I’d give an update on our special mahogany chicken with mashed lime chipotle sweet potatoes. Well, let me tell you they were very tasty. I found the recipes online at:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-challenge/mahogany-broiled-chicken-with-smoky-lime-sweet-potatoes-and-cilantro-chimichurri-recipe/index.html

More tomorrow about our tandoori chicken and grilled eggplant that we’re having tonight. Check back for more if you like what you see.

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