Friday, 18 June 2010

Jam tarts and Pies.

Favourite recipes for use with amazing pie crust:

Jam tarts. I roll the dough into little balls, then roll them into little thin cookie circles. Place 1 spoon of your favourite jam in the center of each and top with another little thing cookie circle. Roll the edges up like pie crusts, glaze with cream and sprinkle with sugar.....and bake at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or or until golden. There are variations. You can roll the dough out in a big sheet and make them like raviolis. Or you could roll out a cookie circle and fold it over like a moon. Make them tiny, make them bigger. It's all good. I like served warm with ice cream best.

I love these best with strawberry jam, next best with red raspberry. They taste like pop tarts only way better.

Apple Pie:

Cut, core, and peel 7 cups worth of firm apples. I like Wealthy apples the very best of all, but Macintosh work too.
1/2 cup brown cane sugar.
1 T of fresh lemon juice
1/2 t fresh ground cinnamon
1/4 t fresh ground nutmeg
2 T cold salted butter

Mix all but the butter together in a  big bowl. Once mixed dump in pie crust, sprinkle filling with butter pieces, and top with more pie crust. Trim edges and press together. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, 375 until the crust has browned to golden. Let cool for 1 hour before serving.

Strawberry pie. That one I have to still work into a recipe. Basically my success has been heating up strawberry jam, adding fresh cut strawberries, pouring into a pre-baked pie crust and topping with a really thing layer of top crust, glazed and sugared. That doesn't sound recipe ish though. I will make it tomorrow and try and document it better.

Amazing Pie Crust

I know, my Dearest will say, "For Humble Pie?" Indeed. This crust changed things for me. Making this crust made my first successful apple pie. That gave me the confidence to keep going.

Use a food processor. Not kidding, this makes crust making easy as pie.

3 cups of all purpose unbleached flour. I use Bob's Red Mill or the local Paul's Grains High Gluten. Either one works well.

3 tablespoons of raw cane sugar. You can use brown pure cane sugar if you can't find "turbinado" or Sugar in the raw. Cane sugar is key.

3/4 cup SALTED sweet cream butter frozen and then cut into 1/4 inch pieces. I prefer to make my own butter BUT there is no noticible differnce between that and store bought in this recipe.

1/4 cup of frozen lard. Pig lard. I'm not kidding. Use local, pastured pig lard if you can. HUGE difference. (If any of you local ladies want to try it let me know and I'll share a bit.) Cut into pieces.

1/2 cup of very cold water.

Put the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse to blend. Then add the butter and lard. Pulse until mixture is crumbly. Fluff the mixture if needed. Add the water slowly while pulsing and stop once the mixture starts clumping like course crumbs.

Take mixture out and knead with your hands on floured parchment paper. Form into two balls and squish into disks. Wrap in plastic or paper and stick in the fridge.

(Make your pie filling)

When you are ready to roll out the dough (I use a chilled marble rolling pin, but that's just me being fancy pants), do so carefully and intentionally. Line your pan with one and top the filling with the other.

But wait, there's more. You want flaky crisp top crust? Use WHOLE CREAM and brush on a glaze over the entire top. I cut my slits after the glaze. Then sprinkle generously with more raw sugar. That adds just the right amount of sparkle. I also take the edge trimmings and make them into pretty shapes to top the crust. That's just fun.

I'll post fillings in just a bit.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Our week has been very wet and muddy and magical.....

So our week has been rainy. Lots of flash flooding, power flickers, and constant downpours with a side of mud. Grey, gloomy, wet and mucky. The rain rain rain came down down down.

One of the sunny hours I rushed out to do bee chores and Lily grabbed the back up camera to take a couple pictures of mama in the spacesuit. 

You will see that I do not wear a full suit. I still wear gloves and the veil and the white shirt though. I found that my normal clothes are too predator like in colour. Also that the bees get stuck in my hair. My hand are too busy for their liking as well. This is the get up that prevents me from getting stung. I also usually wear boots, but I forgot and wore rubber clogs and was totally fine. Also, I work the back of teh hives because my belly bumps the front and that tends to get them buzzing more.

I also had to add a box. The cranky hive (the ladies that gave me 10 stings) was finally full and needed more room.  The boxes are beautiful. I am so glad I am apprenticing with Sean at Blue Gate Farm. He really puts a lot of care into the construction of the hives and doesn't mind that I get chatty and ask a lot of questions.

Lily took this picture. She says its proof the grove is enchanted and full of faeries.  My Aunt Deedle will apreciate this, she's a big believer in cameras capturing the supernatural. I think it's poor lighting and a 1.2 MP with a dirty lens. Still, it does look magical in real life too. Minus the ghost bubbles. (Also, see the mud in the foreground? The whole farm is a marsh.)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Pregnancy Update: New Doc, Happy Mama

I met with the new doc for an official prenatal yesterday. There were some complications with the timing of the actual appointment, something happened at the hospital and then the doctor had a death in his extended family. That left me waiting for about an hour before actually seeing him. In that hour I read half a sci-fi novel (and it really was not very good) and then opened up the folder they gave me as a new patient.

Wow. The packet outlined every single visit and what to expect. The cost of each test or exam. What tests were standard and included and what test might come up. It took about 4 pages for that. Then they spent a small section on possible emergency situations and what to expect, including that their C-Section rate, including elective repeat C/S is only 15-20%! That is really amazing. The first group I was with was 35-40%, but to be fair they do take on more high risk patients in general.

Prenatal vitamins are provided as part of the package, but the doc said with my awesome diet I don't need them. I take the ones I already have anyway though. It can't hurt and sometimes I feel like I'm not eating enough veggies.

So the visit itself....the doc sat down and went over all of my pregancy records, from the infertility pre-Lil'Bug through this pregnancy. Asked about every screening, every test, every complication listed. Went over family health history in detail. I mean, he actually read my file. I'm not sure my other docs ever did that and they are the ones who cut me open.

This was the first time I have ever felt at ease with a doctor, let alone a male doctor. I have issues, I know and I work on those issues, but this time I actually felt like the doctor cared. 

He did the belly check and was concerned about the measurement as it put me father along then the charts indicated, but he pointed out that I am short waist-ed and that would account for that. Just to make sure, he asked to do an ultrasound. Yes, he asked. Since I had canceled the genetic screening ultrasound in DM that would check for the spinal deformities that run in my family, I agreed. He checked for the spine and heart health first. Yes, he did the ultrasound himself, not a tech called in. All is well with baby and he even pointed out that the baby looked smiling. That's the note he put on the picture print too, SMILING BABY. So sweet.  The dating is still questionable though, but he said we'll stick with the first ultrasound's date since it is later, December 1st. Another point for the doc, in my book.

He's still ok with us attempting vbac2. He said he would go over my surgical records and make sure nothing was noted that would indicate that I couldn't. He's very thorough. I like that. All in all my actual appointment time with him was an hour and a half. Pretty impressive.

Everything is just right. Even the nurses are kind. :)  Funny thing is that I keep losing track of how many weeks I am, just the due date sticks. So for the record, right now I am 15.5 weeks.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Chores, a Thinking Response....

I was discussing a few days ago what chores my kids do, what ages are appropriate for what chores.

What immediately came to mind was our Amish neighbor who's 6 year old son (and his 2 other son's and a couple nephews) helped him build a roof on a two story house. Each helped according to their skill and ability. Sometimes, even most of the time, the youngest just sat and watched, fetched tools, and the like- BUT there was a hard to get to joist inside the porch roof being rebuilt and he's the one who crawled in with the drill and got that end. Too young? I don't think so. I mean, the Amish obviously are doing something right considering.

After being blessed to witness that and that same week hearing a lovely piece of wisdom from a local homeschooler (never turn down kid help, and don't question its value or redo it if you can help it or it won't happen again)...I decided to adopt a middle ground. Our farm needs to function with a degree of safety and I can't do everything.

I think kids today are underestimated. Not given enough responsibility and that does them a disservice. So my girls do chores WITH me. All of them to varying degrees, to each their own ability. I'm not building houses here, but I do think it is important that they learn the cost of things, how to budget for food and needs, how to purchase things, how to clean and keep organized, nutrition, food preparation, laundry and dishes, and basic household management things. I have had to learn as I go as an adult and that has done a disservice to my family. The one thing I did know was how to balance a checkbook (thanks Dad!) but that doesn't always make the money fairy show up at our door. Ha! Seriously though. These skills are extremely important and they are an apprentice trade by nature.

Why relegate your kids to just trash take out or some other small insignificant chore? Why not have them help you with it all and make it an important part of your life? I think that part of the problem lies in how we view these tasks, as degrading. They are not. They are the ying to the yang of the breadwinner or the ying to the yang of the farmer and labourer. One needs the other and both thrive when seen as equally important to the growing family. Sounds a little old fashioned  I suppose.

Honestly I need to set a better example even still for my children. I am improving, at a steady pace. I decided not to beat myself up and just keep working on it. In the next couple months I plan to revamp our clothing and laundry system because I have serious issues there. For now, clean clothes in baskets will have to do. Mt. Washmore is not yet ready to be conquered, for now......

Back to the issue at hand. There are some chores Lily does completely on her own. I read somewhere recently (I can't find it!) that kids need chore guidance in this order:
2)helping with full assistance
3)helping with little assistance
4)doing with supervision
5)doing with no supervision and a check later
6)doing with full trust and responsibility

A lot of chore discussion just skips from #1 and assigns tasks at the #5-6 level. That is a bit unfair to the kid. What if you were training for a job and that was done to you? You'd probably adapt, but it would be frustrating and a negative experience most likely.

So what does my 5 year old do with full responsibility? Nothing. Not yet. Right now there is always a double check later even if she doesn't realize it because her chores involve livestock and that is ultimately our responsibility. But at the #5 level, she lets the chickens out, takes them scraps, collects and washes eggs, feeds them their grain, and fluffs their nests. She does all of that without being asked, every morning. She feeds and waters the cat. She's in charge of making sure the bathrooms have toilet paper and on dump run day she collects bath and laundry room trash bags. She collects cans out of Dearest's office. At the lesser levels, she does almost EVERYTHING I do. Yes, everything to a degree. I say almost because the pigs are big enough now that she is not allowed in the pen, but her part of that chore is to watch her sister for 15 minutes. She does a great job too. She helps wash the whey buckets, load and unload them. She does a lot of things, too many to list. And she still PLAYS most of the day. Sometimes I'll go check on her and find her taking care of a task unasked, just because she saw that it needs to be done.

She surprises me sometimes with what she is ready for, what she is willing to help with. And I know her limits better now than I did when we lived in the city. We also don't do allowances. She does earn money, but she saves most of it for her future horse. She earns that by collecting metal and glass from the drive and the field that the horse will be kept, 5 cents a piece. That serves a double purpose, since those items would hurt the horse (and the tractor/car tires). Sometimes she gets mad and breaks things, money for repair comes out of the horse $ jar. Sometimes she asks for extra chores and then buys something little for her sister or one of her friends. But the $$ are not related to the "chores" that are key to keeping our home healthy and happy.

That's my take on it. Perhaps it is a little radical considering what everyone is used to, but it works for us most of the time! :)