Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Updates from the farm and Tok

Back at the farm, things are going well, aside from being very hot. My oldest goat, Bucket was sick when I left. She was dealing with a couple different things that I started treating her for. Jim continued the treatment and within a week and half, she was getting back to her old self. She was dealing with an iron deficiency from  kidding this spring. Thankfully she is doing very well now, and as you can see, clearly not starving! 

She's on a bit of a diet now since apparently the extra TLC she received went over a little too well! 

This buck showed up in our pond - which amazes me. We saw him last fall, however we assumed his antler was broken. Apparently that wasn't the case, his antler is deformed, not broken, and he survived the winter. We've been seeing a lot of strange things in the deer population lately, it's making me start to wonder about the genes that are getting passed on. 

This big buck was also in the pond. While in their summer coats, it's difficult to tell, but there is a good chance this our friend, Deer Norman stopping by. Deer Norman is a regular visitor during the winter, and often sleeps outside our bedroom window under one of the apple trees. 

The water in the pond in front of our house is down because it's been so hot and dry. But every year that happens, the deer seem to spend more time around the house, they like being able to walk out in the water and drink and eat. 

We had Bart the beavers dam lowered... we have a long outstanding feud with him. He keeps building his dam up so high it washes out our road, which leads to a large part of our property. Without the road, we cannot access a huge chunk of our property. Most people would get rid of Bart. We won't do that - so for several years now, we've been trying to get along. We keep the water level manageable by lowering it every once and a while. We let some water out, just to keep the water level even with or below the road, instead of over top of it. He builds his dam back up, and we carry on like this. 

He built his dam right back up after the latest lowering, but at least the road is safe from being washed out for a while longer. When we are home, Kevin works on the dam about twice a week, except in winter. With us gone, Bart kind of went a little nuts washing out the road, so now it's back at a normal level. 

We have our road, and he has his pond. He's happy, we are happy. It all works out. 

Another one of our trees came down, well this one was an arm. I happen to know a red squirrel lives in this tree - I've got multiple pictures of him sitting on that arm, so I imagine he's a little ticked off about it. So far this summer we've got a tree that came down on the goat yard fence and woodsplitter, a tree that came down blocking the road to the cow/horse pasture, and now another in our old wood yard, blocking part of a trail, just behind the house. 

We'll have extra wood to split when we get home. It's all wet, so we'll have cut and split it and let it dry for next year, but it all helps with our winter wood supply. It's sad to see so many trees coming down, all of them fully leafed out and alive. 

Our grapes are doing well - and have nice looking fruit on them. The fruit won't be ready to use this year, since the grapes are not old enough, but they are thriving and that's a great sign. I can almost taste the wine just by looking at them! 

The prairie dogs have been sleeping and trying to stay cool in the heat, although they do love it, summer is their favorite time of year. 

Here in Tok, we've been enjoying some pretty nice weather. Lots of sunshine, and it's been between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from potlucks, and get-together's with friends, we've been enjoying our property, and me and Douglas have been enjoying daily walks. We walk about 2 miles, and in the sunshine, with the mountains clear, it's perfect. 

We had a small shower the other day, which left a beautiful rainbow behind, the first one we've ever seen at our property here! 

We've been making friends with the Camp robber Jays, which isn't too difficult. Just give them treats. We've been leaving them goodies when we can. The other day we had some corn on the cob (which was not very good, it's not easy to get your hands on really good corn on the cob in Tok) and normally at home, I'd share the corn with my birds, the Kakarikis, the chickens, turkeys, goats... I can't think of anyone who doesn't love corn... here, I decided I should share the wealth with the Jays, and they picked the cobs clean. 

With some work, you can get them to land in your hand, or take food from you. In a lot of stories about the North, especially from people living on their own in the bush, you'll hear tales of making friends with the Jays, they have made friends with many a bushman, and woman. 

We've been taking it easy the past couple of days. Kevin is sick with a flu bug, which seems to be going around. I've pulled a tendon in my leg, it's been driving me pretty crazy. I've been wearing a brace, and I've rested it as much as I can, but I've had no real relief yet. 

We have about another month in Tok before we turn around and start the 4,000 mile journey back to the farm, and work. So we'll try and enjoy the rest while we can get it! I'm resting my leg today and making some homemade noodles for chicken noodle soup, and then tomorrow, I return to jelly making. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Easy homemade peanut butter!

My whole life changed today. I'll never forget it, and things will never, ever, be the same.

I've been meaning to try this recipe for homemade peanut butter for a long time now, but it just seems like it always got put to the back of my ever growing "to make" list. 

Today was the day. 

I don't have my food processor with me in Alaska, it's back at the farm, so I used my blender, which kinda worked, but honestly I'd use a food processor. I was left with a peanut butter that was part creamy with some chunky in it - which I adore, so it worked for me. But this would be good either way, chunky, smooth, a mixture of both. You really just can't go wrong.

In this peanut butter there is peanuts, honey, and a teeny bit of oil. 

That's it. I used salted peanuts, so I didn't add any, but you can add salt to your taste. Don't get me wrong, I love Skippy. But what amazed me from my first taste of this homemade peanut butter was - it tastes even better and it's sweet, way sweeter than I thought it would be. All thanks to the wonder that is honey. You can make it as sweet as you'd like - or not by adding the honey to your taste. 

If I was a kid, I would eat this. I don't think they'd have a clue it wasn't the super sugary store bought version. 

I don't think I can buy peanut butter anymore, not only is it so easy to make, it's so darned good I want to just keep eating it with a spoon. 

Easy homemade peanut butter

You need:

2 1/2 cups lightly salted peanuts
4 Tbs (I used less, about 2) of grapeseed oil
2 Tbs of honey (I used about 2 1/2 to 3)
Salt to taste

How to:

Place peanuts into a food processor. Turn on and let run until the peanuts are well ground and resemble coarse wet sand. Slowly pour in the oil. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl and replace the lid. As the food processor is running, slowly add in the honey to your taste, and then the salt, if needed.

Store in an airtight jar in the fridge, just let it sit out a few minutes before using so it softens up. 

For chunky- process less, or add in 1/2 cup or so of chopped peanuts. 

Seriously, how easy is this? 

Hardly even a mess to clean up. 

And you are left with amazing peanut butter. Try it. It might change your life too. 

It comes highly recommend from my blog editors! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Upside down Pug

What? What???? 

I'm just relaxing after a hard days work ... I can't even tell you how tired I am...

see, Norman is sleeping too!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pork filled enchiladas with orange red mole


For the potluck at IHCC's this week, I made something I've had marked to make for a long time. These pork filled enchiladas with orange red mole were worth the effort, and really tasty. I'm in love with the coloradito sauce, it's divine.

I couldn't find Plantains of course, here in the bush of Alaska.... it's not something you can just pop to the store and buy. I had a nice zucchini in the fridge so I added it to my filling for an extra something, but I think with the plantain this dish would be perfect, I think it would suit this dish very well.

Pork filled enchiladas with orange red mole
from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless

For the meat
12 ounces lean boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs, such as marjoram and thyme
1 thick slice onion, roughly chopped

For the coloradito sauce
7 medium dried chilies anchos, stemmed, seeded, and deveined
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 slices firm white bread
1 ripe large tomato, roasted
1 small onion roughly chopped
1 generous tsp dried oregano
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground pepper
pinch cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs sugar

For finishing the filling
1 small boiling potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion
1/2 ripe plantain, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 ripe medium tomato, roasted, peeled and cored
salt and pepper to taste

For finishing the enchiladas
12 corn tortillas
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or cheese such as farmers or feta

1/4 cup diced onion
diced avocado

For the meat, Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the pork, then skim off the foam that rises during the first few minutes of simmering. Add the salt, herbs and onion. Partially cover and simmer over medium heat until the meat is tender, about 45 minutes. When the meat is done, remove it, then strain the broth and reserve it.

For the sauce, cover the seeded chilies with boiling water, weigh with a plate to keep them submerged and let reconstitute for 30 minutes. Place the unpeeled garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium heat and roast for about 15 minutes, turning frequently until blackened in spots and soft to the touch. Cool, then slide off the papery skins and place cloves in blender jar.

Darkly toast the bread and tear into small pieces. Add to the blender along with the tomato, onion, oregano, and spices. Drain the soaked chilies, set aside 1 to use in the filling and add the remainder to the blender along with 1/2 cup of the reserved broth. Blend until smooth, then strain through a medium mesh sieve.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. When it is hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle fiercely, add all the puree and stir for several minutes as the mixture fries and concentrates. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the pork broth, partially cover and simmer over medium low heat for 45 minutes. When the sauce is ready, season with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the filling. Boil the potato in salted water until tender, about 5 minutes and drain. When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred with your fingers. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shredded pork, potato, onion and plantain. Stir often scraping the bottom of the skillet to dislodge any sticky bits, until the mixture is a rich golden brown, about 8 minutes.

When the meat is frying, combine the remaining tomato and single reserved chilie in the blender and process until smooth. Add the puree to the browned mixture and stir constantly for several minutes as the filling thickens. Remove from the fire, season liberally with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm in a low oven.

Warm your tortillas. Just before serving, remove the hot filling from the oven and raise the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Two or three at a time, lay the steaming tortillas in front of you, spoon a heaping tablespoon of the filling down the center of each one, roll up and lay in a warm baking dish, seam side down. When all have been filled and rolled, spoon the coloradito sauce over them and warm in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Sprinkle the warm enchiladas with cheese, some extra onion, and some fresh avocado.


Oh and please mind the paper plates, since the only water we have here at our property in Alaska is water we carry... we are conserving! I have an unreal amount of dishes just from basic cooking, so plates are a luxury not worth having. I'll use the water for my pots and pans ;)

I've been trying to work on this post all day, it's been a crazy one here. I'm also prepping for a dinner party tomorrow night. Pulled pork, potato salad, baked beans, homemade BBQ sauce, ricotta stuffed roasted tomatoes, cherry pies, and Mexican hot chocolate brownies.

I'm cooking up a storm. And trying to conserve dish water. I'm learning a lot about how much water I use to do every day things that I never stop to think about. In the end, I think it's a good thing to learn to be more aware of.

I can't wait to get home and fill my tub to the top with hot water full of bubbles though. But I'll be extra grateful when I'm able to do it!

Rick Bayless @IHCC button rounded

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fireweed jelly


I name all the flowers I am sure they weren't;
Not fireweed loving where woods have burnt-- Robert Frost 

I love fireweed so much, I have a tattoo of it. Honestly. And I'm considering a bigger one now that I've actually made my first batches of homemade fireweed jelly. I have eaten store bought fireweed jelly before that I bought in Anchorage, and honestly I didn't finish the jar. It was a light pink color, pretty tasteless... It didn't taste like the bright flowery, perfumey, heavenly, flowers at all.

Today I went for a short hike up our road, and I picked 16 cups of blossoms. There are big clumps of fireweed growing where mounds of dirt have been pushed to the side of the road here, from when they were breaking the trail back in here.

what most of the road looks like - further down past our land, it turns into an even smaller trail

So for a couple of hours in the bright sunshine this afternoon, it was just me, the fireweed, and the bumble bees. It was paradise. I shared the blossoms with the bees and didn't pick too many in one place. It was almost completely quiet except for the buzzing all around me and the odd dragonfly passing by who sounded like a helicopter coming in for a landing.

it's a slow process picking the blossoms, which are the only parts you need 

but I started to fill up my bowl

One of the mounds of dirt and gravel covered in fireweed

it isn't just pretty to look at either, it smells wonderful

heading home with my bowl now full of blossoms


To make the jelly, you first pick through and rinse your blossoms. Lots of little bugs came home with me, and they had to go. 

Then you measure your blossoms, you need 8 cups of blossoms for a batch of jelly. You put them in a pot with 4 1/2 cups of water and about 1/4 of a cup of fresh lemon juice. 


Then you boil it for about 10 minutes. Your blossoms will look like this, all cooked down... 


Then you put your strainer over a bowl, and cover it with cheesecloth... 


and strain all the liquid out... 


So you'll just be left with nice clear dark pink juice... 


Then you return the strained juice to a boil... and try to avoid a collision with the Pug who keeps walking underfoot... 


Then you add 2 boxes of powdered pectin to the boiling juice, bring it back to a boil, and then add 5 cups (yes, five) of sugar and keep stirring until you bring the mixture to a boil again. Cook it at a rolling boil for 1 minute and then remove from the heat, and ladle into your sterilized jars. 


And voila! Liquid gold. Well it seems like it. As much as I'm not trying to mention winter right now, I really look forward to breaking open a jar of this in January and spreading it all over hot crepes. I can see my future winter blues disappearing every time I look at one of these jars of jelly.


I had to take the jar outside just to show you the color. Isn't it pretty?


Thank you fireweed! I made two batches today, and Kevin told me I better make a couple more. I'll have to go pick more blossoms! On the way home, Canadian customs surely will think we are smuggling fireweed jelly into Canada for the underground jelly market. 


And as for Douglas... he just wants jelly.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doe & Fawn from the farm


Jim had some special visitors to the front yard recently at our farm. It doesn't get much cuter than a little fawn full of bright white spots. He got some adorable pictures of the duo. I'm sure it's a local doe, since she wasn't concerned about anything happening at the farm and house, and felt safe enough to bring her baby out into the yard.





Friday, July 13, 2012

Garlicky homemade Naan


First of all let me start by saying, it's raining! I can see our rain barrels filling up right now. OK, they aren't really, since it's just a drizzle. But it is raining, and if our rain dances worked and it rains enough - we'll have more water in our barrels by morning, which means this day just got even better than I imagined possible. It was a pretty basic day until our friend Pam stopped by to tell us that they caught so many shrimp after we left them in Valdez, we could feel free to come by and take some to cook up here at home.

Music to our ears. Almost as musical as the sound of the rain dinging as it hits the bottom of those barrels.

OK back to the Naan. I woke up today wanting to bake bread. Naan just sounded good, and I also have more than one recipe in mind for using it (which is good cause I've got a ton of it now). It's not a difficult flat bread to make and these tasty little breads are so good with so many things... perfect for soaking up gravies and sauces, or wrapping around meats and cheeses, or salads. There really is no end to the uses of Naan. (alright, I'm sure there really is an end to the uses of Naan, but that's not the point.)

Garlicky Naan 

What you need:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
4 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
4 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp garlic power
1/4 cup melted butter

What to do:

Place 1 Tbs of sugar into 1 cup of warm water. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Let sit a few minutes until the mixture becomes frothy and the yeast is working. Place the remaining sugar, salt, baking soda, 1 tsp of the garlic powder, milk , and egg into a large bowl, mix well and add the flour. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and mix until it comes together. Start kneading away. It will take about 8 minutes or so of kneading to get a nice smooth and elastic dough - if you need to, add a little more water, or a little more flour.

Pour the Tbs of oil into a large bowl and place the dough ball in the oil. Roll it around to coat it, and then cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to rise. When doubled in size (after an hour or two) punch the dough down, and pinch off small pieces of dough, about the size of golf balls. Roll into balls and place them on a cookie sheet. Cover again with the towel and let them double in size.

Preheat a cast iron skillet or grill pan. Grease the pan. Roll each ball into a thin circle and place it on the grill. While the first side cooks, brush the tops with the melted butter mixed with your other tsp of garlic powder.


You want to cook them until they are just starting to bubble and are nicely browned on either side.



See those bubbles? Bubbles equals delicious Naan, which equals a happy and well fed baker.


That's it. Roll, bubble, brown, and repeat, until you are all done.

This makes quite a bit of Naan, so if you'd like less of it, feel free to cut the recipe in half. We ate our Naan tonight with some red lentil Dal (one of the most delicious things in the whole wide world) and some Jasmine rice. Basmati rice is typically eaten with Dal, but we love Jasmine. It's the main type of rice we eat. And we eat a lot of it.


I've spent the past little while enthralled in the world that is Ebay (read, spending money) and hopefully in a few weeks I'll have a couple pairs of pants coming from Thailand, and one from Korea. Maybe in four days I'll win an auction.

Who knows what could happen...

The boys couldn't care less. They are too busy sleeping on me and dreaming about voles. Douglas saw one today and by his shocked reaction (possibly horror) at seeing it, I know it's going to be making at least one appearance in his dreams.

In the meantime I'm going to head to bed myself even though It's midnight and the birds are still singing outside.

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