July 29, 2011

My Sweet Paprika

As a good Norwegian I did not grow up on spices.  Mom strictly flavored her baking and cooking with cinnamon, cardamom, salt and onion salt.  There was also nutmeg in the cupboard that was used once or twice.  Imagine my first exposure to lasagna in high school!  Since then I have welcomed several good spices into my kitchen, including sweet paprika.  The vibrant red color makes things look tastier and its flavor enhances everything else.  Mixed with olive oil and sea salt, it makes a fabulous rub for roasting chicken.

This fabulous container brimming with Hungarian paprika was a gift from a friend traveling through Budapest. I'm told their markets are overflowing with it.  I'm thinking I need to go there and stock up.

July 28, 2011

Farmer's Wife

I don't want no sparkly diamonds.
I wanna see the stars twinkling bright at night
As a farmer's wife.

Don't want no fluorescent lights -
I wanna see the sun rise on the morning field.
What a glorious life.

Let the rooster wake us in the mornin'.
Makin' pancakes before milkin' side by side.
Oh, what life is mine!

Take a ride on our big green tractor.
You're mighty finer than anything we've reaped today.
Oh, it's rather fine.

             Chorus - yet to be determined.  :)  

                              © 2011 Susannah Omundson.  Used by permission.  
                                               She's my niece and she's going to knock someone's
                                               socks off. 

July 27, 2011

Empty Barn Across the Creek

Hay, of course.  And probably kids climbing in the loft.  But did it hold cows? Goats?  Sheep?  Was it hot in the summer and warm in the winter?  If history could talk...

July 26, 2011

Bird House Block Printing

Today's analogy (anyone studying for their GRE?):
      Carving soap-on-a-rope : sculpture
      Stamping : linoleum block printing

Dabbling into the realm of real art takes some guts.  But my thinking is that by trying to create, even if you are artistically challenged, you gain understanding, patience, and skill; therefore, it's work the risk of feeling quite stupid.

Art supply stores carry linoleum blocks, which can be cut to any size.  A simple tool kit is for cutting away what you don't want.  (And what a nifty little kit it is.  Each blade is unique for different cuts, and all are stored in the end of the handle.  Very fun!) The picture left behind will hold the ink and be a mirror image of the final print.

Final assessment:  Too much chatter.  Simple drawing.  Beginner's skill.  Sore hands.  Loved trying it.  Worth it.

Texas Style Peach Cobbler

It's time for some serious dessert when you're camping out in the middle of an old growth forest at the base of the Cascades. One of our traditions is Texas Style Peach Cobbler, seen here with a few wild berries thrown in.  I mixed all the dry ingredients at home in a Ziplock bag and brought the pre-measured milk in a jar. The briquettes were inadvertently left behind, so we experimented with regular coals and learned that they are actually a lot hotter than you might think!  Good thing I checked the progress after a short 20 mins.  The cobbler got a little too hot on the edges, but it was still fabulous and I admit that before cleaning the pot I scraped off every last possible bit for one last taste!

By now you've probably picked up on my penchant for cast iron.  Using the Dutch oven (a cast iron pot with legs on the bottom to sit above the coals) adds a special camping flavor.  You also have to factor in other things like a dark evening,  a roaring campfire, the quietness of the night when the kids and pets have finally gone to sleep, and the relaxation that comes from knowing the day's responsibilities have finished.  All that just preps the taste buds.  Warm cobbler fresh off the fire is a simple luxury that only gets better every year.

Texas Style Peach Cobbler
4-6 c. peeled and sliced peaches
1 cube butter
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk

Warm Dutch oven first by placing over warm coals, at the edge of the fire, or on top of hot, gray briquettes.  Melt butter in Dutch oven.  Add fruit.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the top of the fruit to create an even top layer.  Bake with lid on.  Place oven over 8 briquettes and under 15 briquettes on top of the lid.  Carefully check for doneness after 40 mins.  (Oven equivalent: Bake uncovered in 9" x12" glass pan @ 350° x 45 min.)

July 22, 2011

The Apple Trees

I see apple pie, apple crisp, apple tarts, applesauce, apple cake, baked apples, and dried apples. Did I miss anything?

July 21, 2011

Tea on the Back Porch

The sun was shining when I snapped this shot.  But because we now live in the coolest, rainiest place in the entire world, everything is dripping wet.  So let's move this repast under cover and throw on some sweaters.  I'll put some fresh tea on and whip up a quick batch of scones.  Come on over!

July 20, 2011

The Woodpile

Because he's part woodsman.  Because that woodpile smells good.  Because the colors are really cool.  Because he begs me to just pull up a stump and sit and be with him while he works. Because he's really good at splitting and chopping.

All reasons to post this picture.

July 18, 2011

Hummingbirds at the Feeder

The hummingbirds feed all the time, rain or shine.  They sit in a nearby willow tree and wait for a quiet moment at the feeder.  If you're still enough, they'll come even when you're sitting close - and there's something magical about the humming sound of their wings right by your head.

Elsie the Great Hunter

July 17, 2011

Gorge Music Festival

Talk about a fabulous evening!  We took a short but beautiful drive up the gorge to Hood River, where we ate dinner outside overlooking the Columbia River and the kiteboarders.  There was a good wind and white caps on the water, so there was plenty to take in. Then we headed north across the bridge for free concert in White Salmon - there is a Gorge Music Festival going on and we couldn't pass it up. We got a bit lost trying to find the place, and didn't realize exactly where we were. When we finally pulled up into the parking lot and stepped out of the car, we turned around and were greeted with an absolutely breathtaking view of Mt. Hood. (Sorry for the Google pic - of all nights to forget my camera!)  We listened to some fabulous jazz/pop artists in a little church whose sanctuary windows were perfectly set to the north side of the mountain.  So while listening to music that was food for the soul, we got to see the sun set on the mountain.  It was world class.

July 15, 2011

A Bowlful of Strawberries

No kidding, these came straight from our little window garden.  We always thought the plants weren't producing well, but this year we tried netting.  It successfully keeps out the deer, the bunnies, the birds, the chickens, and all forms of wildlife who feel it is their right and privilege to eat my berries!

You can't buy strawberries this good in a store.  They are so delicious that we were inspired to dig up the thistle bed and plant a new patch of strawberries.  Next year we'll be reveling in homemade jam.

The Beauty of Cast Iron

Berries, brown sugar, cinnamon, thick rolled oats, and butter... baked to perfection in a cast iron skillet.  Honestly, cast iron somehow makes it taste better.  Maybe that's why camp food is so good.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the world stops turning.

4-6 c. berries or mixed fruit
2 Tbsp sugar (more or less depending on tartness of berries)
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 1/4 c. oats
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted

Mix 1st 4 ingredients in 12" cast iron pan.  Mix last 6 ingredients together and sprinkle over berry mixture. Do not pat down.  Place entire pan in oven, bake @ 375° x 50 mins or until topping is golden brown and berries are bubbling up on sides.  Serve warm with ice cream.

July 13, 2011

Sir Bradley's Boots

These are Sir Bradley's boots.  He stays dry in them as he cleans the chicken coop, works in the yard, splits wood, cuts the grass in the "lower 40", and does Man Things outside.  He gets more handsome every day.

July 12, 2011

The Girls

Please meet the girls.  They wander the property freely but come charging up the hill when called, knowing there is always a treat involved.  (Who knew stale bread could be so appetizing?) They are the friendly sort, and don't mind Sir Bradley checking for eggs while they are still roosting.  I, on the other hand, prefer to call them out of their nesting box first, praise them highly for their labors, and then retrieve the brown beauties without any (potential) interference from beaks. Brave farm woman, am I not?

July 11, 2011

A Day in the Lavender Fields

Nothing like a day meandering around lavender farms.  The rolling hills and views were stunning and the weather was gorgeous.  This could rival France - but I'd like to check it out just to make sure. :)

July 10, 2011


Reasons to love chives:
  1. Honey bees love them.
  2. They look spectacular.
  3. You can't kill them...a good thing for any gardener.
  4. You can cut a bunch for a quick outdoor bouquet.
  5. They taste great when snipped into your next omelette.
  6. They work in a casserole, on a roast, or over a potato dish.  The color is fabulous and it makes you look like you know what you're doing.

July 8, 2011

It's the Friendship

Emily was fresh off the plane from Central America, full of tales from her life-changing experience of working in an orphanage.  Just as we gathered around the table to see her pictures, the doorbell rang.  That began the familiar migration of friends joining us at the table.  Older friends.  Younger friends.  Another handful of teenagers.  We were crammed elbow to elbow, and it was the start of an evening full of laughter, amazement, and endearment.

I, of course, was concerned that I had nothing to serve these fine people.  I had forgotten about the loaf of bread still sitting on the counter.  The kids, however, always at home in my kitchen and good at finding and eating anything not permanently adhered to a shelf, found it and helped themselves to thick slabs of the stuff.  The adults soon followed.  You would have thought that it was the most delicious food ever made.  But as I took a moment to watch the scene unfold, I realized that it had little to do with the bread.  It was the warmth, the laughter, and the people.

It's rarely about the food.  It's all about friendships.