Cooking and Eating with the seasons

In general, we cook and eat in harmony with the seasons, and with items we’ve put away in the pantry or freezer for the off-season. We don’t buy very many vegetables, fruit, meat, herbs, or spices from the grocery store, unless it’s something we are really craving, have run out of in the pantry or store room, can’t grow here, or need for a special purpose. We still strive to purchase these other items with a conscience; local, organic, in season, non GMO, etc… Of course, this isn’t always possible, but we do the best we can. It’s all about the love for food and what goes into our bodies to energize us.

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Ratatouille in the making

For the most part, the meals I cook are determined by what we have on hand. I have a hard time following many recipes because I change the ingredients or alter the recipe to what is available. This is where my creativity and pallet take over. Certain recipes do need to be followed for success (especially in baking), but I still may choose different types of flour, butter & oil, sweetener, nuts, seeds, etc.. Many of my recipes you will see posted have a variety of versions depending on what’s available, what I prefer, or who’s coming for dinner.

Loving the fresh fruit in season!

Loving the fresh fruit in season!

My family loves good food. We love all the aspects- growing the ingredients or seeking them out, fresh bursts of flavor, aged goodness, savory, sweet, bitter, the open door to anyone that comes  to visit or help, those who come to the table to eat or get sent leftovers, and above all, the love and time that goes into making and sharing it all. Without certain people in my life, and time spent creating in the kitchen, these recipes wouldn’t be here. Thank you Mom, Grandma Day, Grandma Truppi, Aunt Judy, my sisters & cousins, and the back county women who inspire me.

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Enjoy the creativity these recipes present and the basis they provide. Experiment, find what you like best and have fun. Happy Cooking!

Cookin' at the ranch - Copy

This winter we were busy in the store room and pantry

We finally ground all of our 2014 elk and deer meat and made it into burger and sausage. The end of February could be the longest we’ve ever waited to get this task done.

The pile of spices we use for the sausage.

The pile of spices we use for the sausage.

We had a total package weight of 214 pounds, originating from 150 lbs of elk & deer meat. We wound up with 82 lbs of burger, 82 lbs of Italian sausage, 28 lbs of bratwursts & 28 lbs of breakfast sausage.

Spices all ready to go into the Italian sausage.

Spices all ready to go into the Italian sausage.

This may seem like a ton of meat to some of you, but you must realize that we give a lot away. It is a labor of love.

Jeremy and Lou Ann getting ready to start in on the first phase of meat grinding.

Jeremy and Lou Ann getting ready to start in on the first phase of meat grinding.

We are very happy with the way everything turned out this year. It takes years to dial in sausage recipes, so we’re pretty excited to finally have the flavors we enjoy. At some point in the future I will post the recipes.

Elk and deer meat in two phases- ground & ready to be ground.

Elk and deer meat in two phases- ground & ready to be ground.

My husband, Jeremy, keeps amazing records. So I have him to thank for the consistent improvements. And we have our good friends to thank for helping with the process and always making it a party!

Jeremy and Jon mixing the Italian sausage. Brrrrr on the hands!

Jeremy and Jon mixing the Italian sausage. Brrrrr on the hands!

I still have a few things hanging on from last years garden. The long keeper tomatoes are still alive and some are holding exceptionally well. They don’t have the most incredible flavor, but they’re just fine for salads and sandwiches. The garlic is storing very well, almost no sprouting and I still have a half a shoe box full.

Heirloom garlic from the women of the Salmon River. Originally from Francis Zaunmiller Wisner.

Heirloom garlic from the women of the Salmon River. Originally from Francis Zaunmiller Wisner.

The peppers are all dried out and I’m using them almost daily in some meal (chopped fine or processed). The winter squash is holding up great. I still have a flat of small to medium sized assorted varieties. They all still taste wonderful.

Now that's a load of squash!

Now that’s a load of squash!

Last year was a bumper crop for apples. We store boxes of them in the store room and eat them all winter. Right now we still have boxes and boxes of apples and they are holding really well. They are good to eat fresh, baked and in smoothies. We also give our chickens a few apples every day; which they love.

SFR Apples

Our potatoes are also holding really well in the store room, just a few eyes sprouting. I have two varieties- a purple Peruvian type and a German gold type (from my good friends Heinz & Barbara). My neighbor, who was born and lived his entire 80+ years here on the Little Salmon River, always told me that Good Friday is the time to plant spuds in the garden here. I’ve got three rows planted out there and I was only a few days behind. He’d be proud!

Mounding spuds in 2014.

Mounding spuds in 2014.

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Little garden yogi

 

In the Sun Room

Here’s what’s been happening in the sun room lately.

I started the first few rounds of seed planting. The first round was the cold crops, which I started on February 29th- kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, radicchio, and onions. I moved them outside around the end of March to get them hardy for transplanting into the ground; which should be around the first week of so of April.

Cold crops are growing good. Seeds for tomatoes, eggplant, peppers & tomatillos are in the soil.

Cold crops are growing good. Seeds for tomatoes, eggplant, peppers & tomatillos are in the soil.

Tomatoes, Peppers, eggplant & tomatillos were started from seed on March 15th, and they are all pretty much up and growing. The tomatoes and tomatillos always seem to grow fast compared to the peppers and eggplant. I ordered a few seeds late and started them on March 29th, so they’ll be a little behind. I’m sure they’ll catch up!

My sun room in the midst of planting seeds.

My sun room in the midst of planting seeds.

• The Ricotto Peru peppers are doing great in the sun room! They are two years old now. They have a few peppers that are almost ready to pick and tons of new flowers. I’m trying my hand (q-tip actually) at being the busy bee, so we’ll see how the pollinating goes!

Yeah for baths in the sun room!

Yeah for baths in the sun room!

The Garden in January, February & March

Here’s what’s been happening in the garden and yard in January, February & March:

  • I cleaned out all of last years garden debris and pulled any posts or trellises.
  • Raspberries & Boysenberries– I got them all weeded, transplanted canes back into the bed, secured the support posts & wires, fertilized, and mulched. Ready to go for the season!
The garden in March.

The garden in March.

  • I pruned the lilacs and a few syringa and service berry bushes. I put cut branches into a rooting solution & planted 85 starts up on the hillside as an experiment to see if they will root. I may have missed the window of dormancy with the early spring, but it’s worth a shot.
My garden helper.

My garden helper.

  • I raked out the back flower bed (which I call Grama’s garden because many of the bulbs came from my Grama Day’s garden) & took down the temporary chicken fencing. I put fencing up for several years to give the plants a better chance of becoming established. With chickens roaming around this can be a real challenge.
One of Grama Day's Peonies I transplanted & haven't seen bloom yet.

One of Grama Day’s Peonies I transplanted & haven’t seen bloom yet.

Here’s what we’ve been eating from the garden in January, February & March:

  • We’re actually still eating a lot of fresh veggies from the garden. I’m digging carrots & beets every few weeks and have a good supply of bunching onions, leeks, Swiss chard, kale, collards, cilantro, parsley & other herbs like sage, oregano, mint, and thyme. The chives are just starting to poke out of their winter blanket.
Carrot and beet harvest in January.

Carrot and beet harvest in January.

Spring or winter?

Is it spring or winter? That is the question. Are we done with our winter projects and did we accomplish our winter goals? Are we ready to spring into longer days, put our hands in the dirt, and set our minds to planning the summer ahead?

The view of Chicken Peak from the South Fork Ranch.

The view of Chicken Peak from the South Fork Ranch.

The signs are here that winter is behind us. The plants are out of their winter snooze feeling replenished, fruit trees are flowering, and the hillsides are turning green. The elk are moving down the mountain to calve and feed on fresh vegetation, the gold finch are turning their bright summer yellow, and of course, the robins have returned to the yard (if only to steal worms from my garden). The signs of spring seem to happen slowly, and then they are all here at once, glowing as the bright light of spring.

The crystal clear water of the South Fork.

The crystal clear water of the South Fork.

This winter seemed short and mild. Every time the forecast called for a significant storm, it petered out. The powder days on the mountain were limited. Playing in the snow is unique because you can truly be in the moment, just like when we were kids. It’s as if somehow the chair lift magically transforms us into youth as we climb the mountain. Then we push off to ride in sheer enjoyment the whole way down the slope. It is pure, fun playtime. Being on the mountain or in the backcountry in the winter is so amazing. It brings peace to the mind and heart, which can be hard to find the rest of the busy year.

View of the Salmon River above Elkhorn

View of the Salmon River above Elkhorn

I think playing in general keeps us young and in touch with our roots; especially when the time spent in the mountains and river canyons. There is always time for work, and never a lack of work to be done. Even though we all get swept away with the currents of spring high water, we must work extra hard to eddy out and enjoy some playtime. We should make a point to play a little every day, even if just for a few moments. This is essential to refreshing our souls, nourishing our roots, and getting us through every day with a more positive outlook.

End of January moon

End of January moon