Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Polyphemus the Pumpkin

My grandson loves Halloween and he LOVES carving pumpkins. Last year, he had a great idea--a pumpkin eating pumpkin. It looked like this one below.

Apparently, it was so funny that they did the same (or similar) thing this year (at top), but it was inspired by Greek mythology and the Percy Jackson series of books based on Greek and Roman fables.

Polyphemus was the one-eyed son of Poseidon and Thoosa. He was a man-eating giant in Homer's Odyssey. I am guessing this makes him the perfect subject to carve in our continuing saga of pumpkin eating Halloween sculptures. I know it is very funny for 8 to 10 year olds and I think it is quite a creative idea. I like it better than any regular old Jack-o-lantern.

I would NEVER have come up with this idea since I must be the world's least knowledgeable about all things relating to mythology. I did know what a cyclops was though, so all it not lost.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Easy bundt cake pumpkins

I have seen these little pumpkins made from mini bundt cakes photographed on magazine covers for years. I always thought they were so cute and I didn't really know if they would be easy or hard.

Well, they are easy and didn't take very much time at all.

I found the mini bundt cake pan at a yard sale this summer and picked it up and asked how much. After a little dickering, I walked away with the pan, minus a dollar. It wasn't a great pan. I had to wash it many times and then oil and bake it in the oven more than once but finally. I was satisfied with it.

One good thing is that my work paid off. I used one of my regular recipes, but a mix would have worked fine. I did have to cut some of the excess off because I stated out filling the pans too full but after I began to fill the pans half-full, they were perfect and two bundt cakes makes one pumpkin. I "glued" the halves together, then heavily drizzled the "pumpkin" with a recipe for a drizzled icing colored with a bit of red and yellow food coloring. The "stems" are made with cinnamon.

I don't think this was my best recipe ever but they sure were cute and very festive, served during the half-time at a football game. Each one serves two. These were my easiest pumpkins ever.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ashe County Cheese

According to CNN, macaroni and cheese is Number 31 on their list of Americans' favorite foods. I would think it is somewhere closer to the top of the list for American children--and for many adults I know. Americans do love their cheese. (I know I do!)

We had this in mind when we decided to visit a cheese factory during our recent family reunion. This old cheese factory, established in 1930 by the Kraft Corporation and it was a great place for adults and children to visit. We arrived around 10:30 am to watch the cheese-making process.

As we pulled up to the factory in downtown West Jefferson, North Carolina, we were greeted by three large cows that doubled as raw milk holders and greeters. (No, these are not Chick-fil-A cows!) I thought it was a very creative way to welcome visitors to the processing plant.

As we entered the plant, we saw the cheese being made through a large window and watched a video explaining the process.

One of the employees was stirring the curds and getting ready to pack them into round wheels--called daisy wheels. Most of what they make here is cheddar, but they also sell a few other varieties--mostly flavored cheddar. They also sell curds which are kind of like string cheese but more chewy with less flavor.

Sitting behind the employee stirring the vat of curds and whey with a big white shovel are the round daisy wheel molds, cleaned and ready to be packed with cheese.

After the cheese is pressed into the molds, they are dipped in wax and ready for aging and for the market.

Across the road is the gift shop. Apparently, over the years the cheese processing plant has changed owners a number of times and the shop and the plant are now owned by different people (no longer Kraft), working closely together to sell the cheese made there.

We really enjoyed watching the cheese-making process and tasting the cheese across the street, especially the cheddar. It was yummy. The fresh curds were not quite as good but it was nice to taste them. They wouldn't be something I would like on a regular basis.

In the shop, there were walls of jellies, jams, pickles, relishes and all kinds of things that team up with cheese to make it a great snack or meal.

Somewhere behind the processing plant, the wheels of cheese are aging. We didn't see that but we did see the video. I thought it was a great tour and would recommend it to anyone passing through that part of North Carolina. Also, this cheddar would make some Mac and Cheese that would make any American proud.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New crop: Tomatillos

This year we planted tomatillos in our garden for the first time. We planted them a bit late and I really didn't expect to have a very good harvest. That was true at first but then the tomatillos began to grow and grow and mature.

They remind me of tomatoes but the seeds bother me and there is a slightly bitter aftertaste. I was delighted to have them.

The only real problem I have is this--I don't know how to use tomatillos. Not a clue. They are an unusual and unfamiliar plant. At least they are very easy to peel. I discarded the husks I easily peeled from the fruit into my compost pile and then looked for a recipe. I found one from the Ball Blue Book canning book that I loosely used for my recipe.

I roasted the tomatillos in the oven along with a few chili peppers, chopped them all up and then used this recipe.

Tomatillo Salsa
2 pounds of roasted tomatillos, chopped
3 chili peppers, roasted, then chopped
2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
Juice of one lime (approximately 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together and put into jar or air tight container. Allow flavors to blend in the refrigerator at least overnight. This may be put into hot jars and processed for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes one quart of salsa.

I am planning on using this for my fish tacos. I think it will be a complimentary flavor for the fish.

The jury is still out about my tomatillos but I must say they were a big success in my garden. I can't wait to try the salsa on my family.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Country Lights

This past weekend I attended a family reunion in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It was just a hop, skip and jump over to Boone where the Dan'l Boone Inn and Restaurant is located. One night we went there for a nice country dinner.

We had a very nice family-style meal and the service was great. It should be since the motto is, "It's fun to be nice to people." They were very nice and it was fun.

I did see something I had not seen before. Look at the light fixtures. They were made from galvanized steel buckets. That, to me, was so creative.

It could also be a money saver. I don't think it would be perfect for any decor, but for a farm house kitchen, this is a great idea.

Also, if you are ever in Boone, these people will treat you right. They also do fried chicken right, too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Happy Halloween from Pinterest

It's time to look for interesting and different Halloween crafts to make for decorations or for giving. Pinterest ALWAYS has some of the best ideas. Here are a few.

Above from the best cake ever for Halloween. It has spiders, mummies and glowing owl eyes made from brightly colored fondant.

Speaking of spiders. These pipe cleaner/lollipop spiders are the best! This idea is from Becky Grantland.

Amanda Trahan posted these cute goblin pudding treats. Perfect use of a budding young artist's talents. There is even directions on the photo.

From made from pretzels and string cheese. Very creative.

Another great tutorial from plastic cups with little lights inside (not candles but lights with batteries please! I don't think these would withstand a real lighted flame!) They are very cute and easy. This one is from Julie Shawanesse.

I think this one from is my favorite! Best use of bathroom tissue--second only to wrapping mummies.

Best costume to Lisa Vecchio! I probably am more drawn to this one because of our beekeeping but it is so cute.

Now this one would does deserve a hand. A surgical glove used for a treat bag with a spider ring. Perfect. Thanks to Great idea!

Best cupcake idea are these adorable owls made from oreos. So cute! Great idea from Robin McDonald!

And I saved the creepiest one for last. These cake pops from are so cute. How can something be creepy and cute at the same time? Cake pop eyeballs that have forks sticking in them. It's Halloween folks!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The season for kale

My favorite green vegetable these days has to be kale. I know when I eat or put it in one of my "green" smoothies I am getting a boatload of vitamins and minerals. Kale usually tops the list of healthiest, most nutritious vegetables. It is high in Vitamins A, C and K and provides calcium and folate.

A recent list of top 10 greens on Web MD lists greens in this order: kale, collards, turnip greens, Swiss chard, spinach, broccoli, red and green lettuce, cabbage and iceberg lettuce (which is America's most popular green, even if it is little more than water).

My favorite way to eat kale--green smoothies. I put an apple, orange, sometimes a banana, carrots, a handful of kale, frozen berries, ice and water in a heavy duty blender and blend until it is smooth.

I feel like I am downing vitamins but I also am getting tons of fiber with my vitamins.

Kale is good in a sandwich, too. It takes the place of lettuce and though the taste is stronger and the texture a little heavier, I love it that way.

It is good in salads. If you go to a salad bar like Whole Foods, they generally have chopped kale as one of the options. It is very tasty with garbanzo beans, blueberries, feta and dried cranberries--all tossed with a light raspberry vinaigrette.

Sauteing is also one of my favorite ways to prepare kale. Just chop and toss kale in a hot stir fry pan, or iron skillet, with a tablespoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper it and you are done. I really like it as a side with pork loin roast and sweet potatoes. It's the perfect fall meal.

I now have two gallons of freshly washed kale in my fridge picked from my garden. I am ready for some healthy eating.