Friday, February 20, 2015

Frozen Fruit

For what must be the 54th time this week, the kettle is on.

We went out looking for birds this morning in 5F and were rewarded with a new one for our year: the red-breasted merganser. Mergansers are, undoubtably, my favorite waterfowl. They are stunning.

Stone Fruit Slump in
Rustic Fruit Desserts
Anyhow, as we prepare for company next weekend and I consider our menu plan, I am faced with a conundrum. For generations we country folk have been taught to prepare for winter and the season we are now entering into - the hungry gap - because you only eat what you grow and harvest and preserve to eat. Last summer, I put up peaches, blueberries, and rhubarb in the freezer and in jars. But, after having had such an indulgent holiday season, the thought of baking a cake, cobbler, or pie seems downright irresponsible! This is the time of year we should be surviving on well sugared preserved and turnip soup. But we aren't hungry. We aren't even skinny. In fact, we could both stand to go a little MORE hungry and be a little MORE thin than we are. But what about the fruit?

Before I know it, fresh rhubarb will be poking its pink head from the ground. Then I certainly won't be going to my freezer for last year's harvest. So I suppose we must entertain and by having people in the house {in-laws but also friends} bake away the carefully laid back fruit and thereby share and serve up a slice of summer for 450 calories a pop.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I find it rather ironic that on the one day I cannot muster the courage to go out in the yard to feed the birds, I am sitting at a computer on campus after having come in with Julian and will continue from here to work at the church. It was even a balmy 13F when I snapped this photo compared to yesterday's 4F. There was just something about our {reasonably meager} accumulation of snow that left me transfixed by the door. Nope. I'm not going out.

Less than and hour later, we were out... because unlike our dear friends in Virginia, we did not get enough to cancel anything and even if we had, nothing would have been cancelled anyway.

I hope you are inside, enjoying a good book, the kids' glee, a cup of cocoa. Enjoy an extra one for us.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015



Its that time of year again - daydreaming-about-the-garden time. My catalog came this week from the Antique Rose Emporium. It is a favorite of mine, and the company grows some of the oldest, most amazing roses. The vast majority of them I have never heard of or have only read about in books.

Anyhow... one more summer of daydreaming is ahead of me. With our time in Morgantown coming to a close, there will be no putting new plants in the ground - no looking down, only looking up and ahead. In fact, I will be digging more than I will be planting, to be sure.

I was just checking this weekend to see if there were any daring daffodils starting to poke their heads out. No. Not yet. Is your garden showing any signs of spring?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Favorite thing

And that is how you make strudel. Julian and I have been reading from Jane Grigson's Fruit Book in which the author is more than a little opinionated about fruit and fruit recipes of all kinds. I think it took us two weeks to get through APPLE. The book is heavy on obscure gourmet recipes and cultivars of fruit and we've gotten good chuckles out of the author's conviction that commercial fruit just isn't what it used to be.

And she's right. We find ourselves making notes as we read about varieties of apples to plant in our dream orchard, but honestly - we are, only now, half way through APRICOT.

So that is how we ended up here, making apple strudel. Jane mentioned it in the book and said that a true apple strudel only uses {insert obscure variety here} apples. Having never eaten, seen, considered a genuine apple strudel, this set us both on a mission to learn this dying art.

Come to find out, it's not so tricky after all. Basically, you make a pasta dough, roll it out so thin you can read through it, and roll up some fruit. With the right planning, you could just make one because it was Tuesday. The trick is all in the rolling, really. The dough is laid out on a floured bedsheet and then rolled like so (it's a video, click it to play).

It was interesting. It was delicious. The dough baked up half-baklava, half-lasagna. We followed this recipe. In the fruit filling, I omitted the flour, added two handfuls of dried tart cherries, a handful of chopped pecans, and a glug of rum. I need to write it down, put it in my box, and act like I've always made the stuff.

Have you had any fun kitchen adventures this week?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Those are totally unrelated photos of some leftover flowers I adopted from the church. 
Gosh. They are stunning. 

*on topic*

I returned my library books on Monday with intentions of acquiring a new big batch. Library CLOSED due to plumbing problems and flooding. Horror of horrors. I hope the books are okay. As if not getting new books weren't bad enough, I had to drop my returned books in the book-drop-thingy. I hate that. Such abuse. I try to be sweet to books. 

At least I still have some eBooks and audio books to work through. I was working on Hotel on the  Corner of Bitter and Sweet but it just didn't capture my attention. I found myself comfortable NOT pausing the audio when I got interrupted, and let me tell you - that's a sign. Life's too short for meh books. 

I requested the A Girl of the Limberlost from the library on audio but they got it in an eBook instead. I'm thrilled that they honored my request, but I will have to sit down and read it. 

At present I am enjoying (as always) some Wendell Berry. A world Lost is the story of Andy Catlett, a familiar name from the other Port William books. I am already smitten with it, just a few pages in. I just love how Berry knows people and knows how people know people. 

"Aunt Judith was the only woman I knew who smoked cigarettes, and this complicated the smell of her perfume in a way I rather liked."

I liked this line because it is an intimate kind of knowing a person that is completely sound when it is a nephew knowing his aunt, but it is a kind of knowing that grown man ought not know a woman who was not his wife. I just love it. If you haven't, read more Wendell Berry. 

What are you reading?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Our weekend was a good and wintry one. The snow fell almost constantly, though never really accumulated. We went for a bird-seeking nature walk through the botanic garden and ended up being able to see almost all the same birds in the peace and warmth of the car after an hour and a half walking in the 29F weather. Sunroof birding, I'm a fan.

We made authentic german strudel, to which I will devote an entire post, and a delicious batch of chili we enjoyed Saturday, Sunday, and today. I accidentally dumped in a heaping helping of dry rub, thinking it was chili seasoning. Julian said it was some of the best chili he'd ever had! It was also the first time I've used my home canned chili base and I was very happy with it!