Tips for Hard Boiling Farm Fresh Eggs

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Have you ever tried to hard boil an egg from your very own chicken and had it turn out nearly impossible to peel?  Bits of egg came away with the peel and the thing ended up looking mutilated.

Method 1.  Wait:  The reason farm eggs are hard to boil and peel is because they are so fresh!  If you keep your eggs in the refrigerator for 2 weeks and then boil for 10 minutes, they should peel easily.  This is a great solution for those eggs of questionable age in mid-summer when the girls are laying so quickly that it’s hard to keep up your egg consumption.  If a batch of eggs starts to seem a little older, then boil them for snacking. 

This leads to the question… why are grocery store eggs usually so easy to boil and peel?   The logical answer is that they are already older.  Hmmmmmmm.

Method 2.  Steam:  Let’s say you don’t have time to age your eggs.  You need boiled eggs now!!  Instead of boiling, put them in a steamer.  When you get a good steam going turn the timer to 20 minutes.  You’re eggs should peel beautifully.

Method 3:  Baking Soda:   Sprinkle baking soda in your cold water and add eggs.  Bring to a boil for ten minutes.  Bon appetit!

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Marinara Mash-up Recipe

Tonight dinner was fresh baked bread, broccoli, and chicken smothered in home-made marinara with cheese.  My family always asks about the sauce.  What kind of sauce is this?  Did you make it?  In other words… is it store bought?  I think the reason they have such a hard time nailing down my signature marinara sauce taste is because it is different every time I make it.

Here was tonight’s recipe:

1 jar whole tomatoes

2 cloves elephant garlic

3 small sweet peppers

8 leaves spinach

A couple pinches of my home dried herbs (oregano, savory, thyme and rosemary)

A dash of salt, sugar and olive oil

All whirled through the food processor and then simmered for half an hour.

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My frugal ingredients from the garden

The tomatoes, garlic, and herbs are really all this sauce needs (all of which are items I had laid up for the winter) but I like to use up fresh ingredients from the fridge in this recipe, or excess produce in the summertime.  Marinara can be a true waste not, want not adventure.  Here are some of my other favorite marinara add-ins:  carrots, peppers, basil, greens like spinach or chard, summer squashes, onions and all garlic varieties, capers, olives and wine (substitute wine for sugar), and of course… meat.  You may grate or food-process any of these items to add flavor and nutrients (your kids will have no idea) to your dinner.  You may cook your ingredients anywhere from ten minutes (I do min. 10 minutes on home canned tomatoes…. just in case) at a brisk simmer for a fresh tasting distinct sauce to a slow-cook of several hours for a rich and densely melded marinara sauce.

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Quick Cook Marinara

No Recipe?  Now, we’re Cooking.

 

The Joy of Old Time “Receipts”

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In the greater scheme of history, cookbooks have not always been readily available for the common household, nor have the books (or blogs) with housekeeping advice that is now so plentiful for the modern household.  More often, a girl learned from her mother how to cook and keep house.  Diets were simpler and regional.  If you grew up in Norway for example, you learned from your family and neighbors how to cook Norwegian food.  For those who could write, some recipes were written down, but often learned by heart as well.  The first American cookbook, according to The Pioneer Village Cookbook” by Ann Chandonnet (2010) was called American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons and wasn’t published until 1796.   Here is her recipe for Simmons’ Pompkin Pie,

“One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.”  (hmmm)

During the 19th century, cookbooks and books on housekeeping started to come into use more regularly, but were still rare.  Another interesting book in this area is The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Child first published in 1829.  It contains interesting bits of advice like this:

“Barley Straw is the best for beds; dry corn husks, slit into shreds are far better than straw” (who knew?)

(Or)

 “Keep a course broom for the cellar stairs, wood-shed, yard &c. No good housekeeper allows her carpet broom to be used for such things”  (I remember this one every time I take my good broom outside).   But the volume has all sorts of advice ranging from keeping an immaculate apartment, preparing the cheapest cuts of meat, raising children (play is not encouraged, children should learn to enjoy being productive so that life is more pleasant in the long run), cheap dyes, and of course recipes like this:

“Cider Cake is very good, to be baked in small loaves.  One pound and a half of sugar, quarter of a pound of butter, half a pint of cider, one teaspoon full of pearlash; spice to your taste. Bake until it turns easily in the pans. I should think about half an hour.”  Notice the lack of precision in this recipe.   These sorts of recipes also assume that the cook already has plenty of baking experience.  While these old cookbooks are fun to read some of the recipes are not advisable to try… health codes have changed.

What we would now call a recipe was known pre-20th Century as a “receipt”.  A receipt could even be used to describe any set of how-to instructions including this wonderful excerpt from a fundraising “Kokebok” I found.  This book was pulished by the Ladies of the Sons of Norway Lodge #44 Poulsbo, WA in 1966, but the excerpt is attributed to being much older.

For your enjoyment I will print it in full:

“A “RECEIPT” FOR WASHING CLOTHES BEFORE THE 20TH CENTURY”  provided by Mrs. Paulmer Slind

This is the original spelling.

1. Bild a fire in the back yard to heet kettle of rain water.

2. Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is pert.

3. Shave on hole cake soap in bilin water.

4. Sort things, make three piles. 1 pile white. 1 pile cullord, 1 pile work britches and rags.

5. Stur flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with biling water.

6. Rub dirty spots on board, then bile – rub cullord but don’t bile –

7. Take white things out of kettle with broom stick handle then rench, blew and starch.

8. Spree tee towels on grass.

9. Hang old rags on fence.

10. Pore rench water in flour bed.

11. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.

12. Turn tubs upside down.

13. Go put on clean dress– smooth hair with side combs–brew cup of tee– set and rest and rock a spell and count blessins.

I so enjoy reading these bits out of the lives of our predecessors.  I can see right into the day of an American family as close and fresh as any American novel, bringing history more fully to life.  They tell a story of love and care, principles and economy, of the joy of a hard earned rest at the end of the day and a slower pace of world.

The Clean Regime…it doesn’t have to be complicated.

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I thought today I would share my simply kitchen and bath cleaning regimen.  For bathroom and kitchen cleaning I use primarily two ingredients: Baking Soda and White Distilled Vinegar.

Baking Soda is great for toilets, sinks, bathtubs and anything that needs a good scrub.  I buy most things in bulk and consequently a bag of Baking Soda may be used for both cleaning and cooking.  I didn’t want to always be dipping into the same bag for grossly different tasks.  So I “decant” into jars.  I keep a jar in the baking cupboard and another jar in my cleaning kit.  The cleaning jar is a regular canning jar that has holes punched in the top (with a nail and hammer)  to make my own shaker.  As a side not I like Classico jars for this, in fact if I have to buy a can of pasta sauce I usually buy Classico because they use real Atlas jars that can be reused to can your own pasta sauce.  Now you can simply pour your Soda and scrub.

For a simple spray I find an old spray bottle.  Be sure that your bottle is clean and fully rinsed.  It is not advisable to mix vinegar and bleach as it creates noxious fumes.  My cleaner is one part water and one part vinegar.  I also add to this a few dashes of lemon juice and occasionally some scented oil to make it more pleasant.  But remember the vinegar smell evaporates quickly when used.  I use this mixture for countertops, fixtures, appliances, toilet seats, linoleum floors… just about anywhere.  Vinegar is a natural antibacterial agent and it’s cheap!

Another use for this mighty duo is a good sink cleanse.  According to my roto-rooter guy it is a good idea to flush your sink drains once a month to prevent build up.  Go ahead and pour some baking soda down the drain, then chase it with a cup of vinegar.  It will make a satisfying fizzing noise.  Then after your solution has sat for a bit boil a kettle of water and pour it down your drains.  That should keep things running smoothly.

Don’t forget to use baking soda and vinegar in your laundry.  Baking soda in the wash cycle will freshen clothes and vinegar in the rinse will do the same as well as soften fabrics….this is a great safe option for cloth diapers, but NOT if you use Bleach.

I could go on, because the uses seem endless, but just these little ideas will make a big difference on the pocket book.

Alive!

Every once in a while our steady Pacific Northwest rains and mists turn into storms as they did last night. It was near dark and the winds were whistling down our chimney and I thought, “Time for a walk”. So I bundled up and grabbed my reluctant husband and headed for the hill for a bit of exercise. The hill is the road stretching up behind our house. It’s long and it’s steep and from up there the hills beyond stretch on and on to the horizon. Last night the Douglas Firs, straight and fearfully tall swayed drunkenly in the high winds. The rain coming in sideways blasted my face and when we reached the top I threw off my hood and thought of Whitman:

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15755#sthash.or3dDIsf.dpuf

It was dreadfully exciting. There was a moment that I looked up into the trees and envisioned a widow maker careening down on us, and that maybe Josh and I shouldn’t walk so close together, you know, so our children don’t become orphans. So I ran down the hill like a reckless child, just this side of maintaining control. I love free entertainment. Free as the air we breath and my two feet beneath me.