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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forgotten arts, I don't need another cookbook, but...., and a lovely potato soup

I love living out here in the country---and while we aren't out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-you-can't-get-there-from-here country, we're out far enough that I have to plan running errands, and if family wants to visit, it's pretty much an all-day affair.  The grocery store is 20-25 mins away, which isn't bad at all, but in the winter, that can become significant--again, planning required, especially since when our road gets plowed it takes approximately 3 1/2 minutes before it's drifted over again, due to its orientation to prevailing wind patterns.  It's getting close to the time of year again, where I'll have to be more diligent with my planning.

One of the true joys of living out here though has been the 'local color'.  It was something I noticed very early on....we had a postman who made the drunken wild mail carrier in the Chevy Chase movie "Funny Farm" look positively warm and fuzzy.  And, just the 'regular' people didn't exactly warm up to us, being new-comers or 'transplants' as they referred to us (I'm sure they had other names for us too that they didn't share openly).  I learned to laugh at these oddities and began to treasure them for their uniqueness.

Gradually, we became accepted (although locals still from time to time remind me that I live on the old "Rathsaddle"* place.  I was always dumbfounded by this categorization because this place was a beanfield when we bought it.  The 'place'???  Wouldn't that imply a homestead or structure???  No, not out here).

(*fictionalized rendition of the actual name).

I have come to know, over the years, a man who hauls for me (driveway stone, sand, topsoil, etc.)--gradually, we've become well-acquainted since we now have approximately half of our net-worth in driveway stone!  He's a great guy and is a many-generationed-'native'.  He always has an interesting tale to tell me about the past generations of farmers in his family, the changes that have occured and we've had more than one lively conversation about the USDA and the effects of their 'involvement' in agriculture.  Earlier this fall, he shared a story with me that really got my attention.  I am interested and drawn to the 'lost arts' whether it be crafts, cooking, animal husbandry, etc.  His story falls into the last category.  Seems he has this cow...and is real partial to her (his words), and last year she got a very bad cut.  He bandaged her up, called the vet who said, 'whatever you do, don't bandage her up'.  Uh-oh, too late.  So, the vet instructed:  'well, keep an eye on her'. 

A couple of days later and the cut was infected guy calls the vet back and says you gotta come look at her, give her a shot or whatever.  Vet says, 'nothing you can do at this point, cow will either live or die'.  Ok, so my guy is heart-broken and remembers this old, old book that his great uncle had from the 1800s about animal husbandry.  He digs it out and looks through it and sees it's in sections by animal, so he's looking under cows, says, see horses. So he goes to that section and the instructions read to make a poultice of half and half plantain and comfrey.  Well, of course we have plantain everywhere, so he gets that and then spends half a day finding a local herb gardener who has comfrey, makes up the poultice and puts it on the cow.  Two days later and the cow is healed! 

This story has inspired me, once again, to look into the nearly forgotten use of plants in the care of animals and all that nature provides us.  I'm hoping to do a winter project of researching some practical applications and this will mesh nicely with my other already-started project of researching edible weeds.

Incidentally, how this story even came up in the first place, was due to me mentioning to my friend the use of plantain for wasp/yellow jacket stings.  I had been stung badly this summer and tried plantain in place of my usual baking soda...snatch up a leaf and chew briefly then apply on the sting.  It was unbelieveable how well it worked!

For more on plantain:


I don't need another vegan cookbook.  I really don't.  But, I bought two this week.  One I had preordered.  It is Lindsay S. Nixon's 2nd cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore.  I haven't had a chance to really tear into it yet, but a quick thumb-through and I was reaching for slips of paper to bookmark recipes.  Will be putting more from that book on the blog in the near future.  You can have a peek at it over on Amazon:  It's only $13. and her original book, which I interviewed her about here, is now only $12.  Both books are easily worth that.  The best thing about Lindsay's recipes is that there is basically NO OIL in them, so I don't have to worry about how I'm going to substitute that unhealthy and fattening ingredient.  It amazes me how we all fell for the line that olive oil is healthy.  I still have to ward off this misconception from others, but I'm beginning to see a glimmer of change.  People really seem to be thinking about what they put in their bodies.

The other cookbook I got was via someone who picked it up at the library for me.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that again, here was a book with no to minimal oil or processed foods of any kind!  Blissful Bites, by Christy Morgan, is a really well-put together book filled with little tid-bits of information that are wonderfully practical as well as educational. After renewing the book from the library as many times as I could, I decided I had to have it. I've only made a couple of the recipes, but the Mac 'n Cheeze recipe alone is worth getting the book for.  It is WONDERFUL. My husband really prefers it to Rip Esselstyn's Mac not Cheese, which has been a favorite of ours.  Sorry, still rule lasagna around here though!

(Also, anyone's whose favorite squash is kabocha is tops in my book!  Click on the link above to go to Christy's web-site; she has a great sampling of recipes there.)

Macro Mac n Cheeze from Christy Morgan's Blissful Bites


I absolutely have soup on the brain....I made another batch of corn bisque---had it for the first course for our Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm already craving it again. 

In an effort to use up some things in the frig and pantry, I thought I'd throw them together for a potato soup.  It came out very good, much like my earlier attempts at a hearty potato soup.  I started with some homemade veggie easy to make.  Keep your veggie scraps in a bag in the freezer, then toss them into a big pot of water, simmer for as little as a half hour, up to a couple of hours.  Strain and you are good to go.

 Veggie-scrap bag from freezer

Veggie Stock in the making
It's not pretty, but boy does it make a good, hearty veggie stock.  Soooo much better than that boxed stuff on the grocery store shelf.

Yummy Potato Soup/Stew

Large onion, chopped
Garlic cloves, 1 - 3 depending on your taste
1 head of broccoli, cut into large chunks
2 - 3 potatoes, chopped into large chunks (peeled if you prefer)
1 sweet potato, chopped into chunks
1/2 head cauliflower
Various veggies (carrots, peas, corn, etc.--clean out the frig!)
4-6 C of veggie stock
(optional:  1 can of coconut milk)

While stock water is simmering, you can get to work on the veggies for the soup, peeling and chopping. (Stick all those left-over pieces and peels into a new bag in the freezer for the next batch of veggie stock.  This really does make the soup).

In pan with small amount of water, saute chopped onion and garlic.  Let these almost carmelize. Stir up the brownish bits.   Add stock and potatoes, broccoli, cauli and carrots if using.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until veggies are tender, approximately half hour.    Now add in your other veggies that don't need to cook long, frozen corn, peas, etc., any tender greens you might want to add.  Simmer for a few minutes. 

Blend up soup in batches, puree until smooth.  You can leave some of the veggies intact if you want to have those chunks in your soup, or go for a complete puree.  Return to pot, add some seasoning to suit your taste.  Enjoy. (Note:  I made this last batch very thick, almost a stew and it was wonderful.  Even my husband commented on really liking it and how it will be great to have this a lot in the winter.  If you want a creamier, smoother soup, add in a can of coconut milk and/or more liquid.  You can blend that in the blender or just stir in for the final heating).

I whipped up some of Lindsay Nixon's whole-wheat drop biscuits to go with this.....very, very good, but I want to tweak the recipe a bit as I found it a bit salty/sodaish tasting.  I'll cut the amount of salt and baking powder to see if that helps.  Husband didn't care for these at all, so will probably stick to yeast rolls for him.

My only complaint with Lindsay's books are:  recipe amounts are a bit different than what I would expect, for example, this biscuit recipe was for 5 biscuits.  I'm not sure who would make 5 biscuits, but of course, it is easy enough to double/triple the recipe.  Which brings me to my other complaint (that I did contact her about), the font size for the ingredients measurements is very small, particularly fractional teaspoon amounts.  Even with my glasses, it is tough to read them.  So, minor complaints and still worth working around for the great recipes she comes up with.

Sue, I could live on soup, in Ohio