The Entertaining Farmgirl’s Summer Party

IMG_0735

Ever the Entertaining Farmgirl I must host shin digs.  It is my inner Martha Stewart.  Our summer party is my favorite.  Our friends are like dear family to us and to have everyone together is a blessing and a cause for celebration.  We can stretch out when we have the party outdoors instead of crammed in the old farmhouse in the winter for dinner parties.

IMG_0732

The weather started blustery, and rainy.  Small chips of hail hit us from the side as we tried to figure out how to fit twenty people in the living room if the weather did not let up.  An hour later, the temperature was perfect, the air fresh, and the sweetest party weather ensued.

IMG_0731

IMG_0729

We set up our farmers market tents in case the rain joined us later.  The table was decorated simply with Santa Fe blankets and oil lamps.  Twinkly lights strung across the yard (I thought ahead last year after Christmas) made the scene enchanting.

IMG_0728

IMG_0740

Our friend, Rodney, has a great system for music and karaoke and we are lucky enough to use his expertise and sound system for events at the farm.  Joyous singing, from serious and astounding vocal performances (like Dave’s rendition of New York, New York.  He was this close to making it on X Factor, the television show.), to the group performance and rousing remake of Bohemian Rhapsody.

IMG_0737

The goats were a big hit and they did their best to show their most fantastic antics.  Our little friend, Lucy, sure enjoyed the animals.

IMG_0733

We set up the party after having our booth all day at the street fair.  After three long days of farmers markets.  The house was not spotless.  We premade baked salmon with tropical barbeque sauce (fire ban here) and served it cold.  I set a pot of baked beans to cook itself in the crock pot early that morning (2 cups of pinto beans, 5 cups of water, 1/2 bottle of barbeque sauce, a couple good shakes of liquid smoke, a dollop of Worcestershire, five swirls of molasses, and at the end a few teaspoons of salt.)  In bean fashion, they weren’t quite done, but no one complained.  Everyone brought a summery dish.  Deviled eggs, bean salad, chips, fresh garden salad, pasta salad….the spread was mouthwatering.  Friends don’t mind making it a pot luck.  If almost everyone brings something, you will have enough food.  Lots of wine and beer were enjoyed plus a little spiked lemonade courtesy of Pat and Rodney.

IMG_0738

The conversation was great, the sunset was breathtaking, the music was hoppin, the food and drink were refreshing, and the summer party was a great way to take a breather from all the work required in the summer and enjoy the season.  Get some folks together for an impromptu pot luck.  Enjoy summer!

Farmgirl Cocktail

Everywhere I look, people are presently changing jobs, or moving (or trying to), ending relationships, or having babies, or other really big life changes.  It’s like the earth shifted some and our realities and plans with it!  What everyone seems to have in common though is that we are all working really hard and pinching pennies!  I am exhausted just thinking about all of the farmer’s markets, shows, last few months of running the shop, preserving enough food to get us through the winter, saving enough money to get us through the winter, and keeping up with regular farmgirl chores.  I could use a cocktail.  But I can’t be running around to wine bars with my friends anymore.  Time to settle in.  Invite some folks over and sit on the back deck and take a break!  And pull out my friend Rodney’s easy margarita recipe.
margarita

Rodney’s Excellent Easy Margarita

1 tube of limeade frozen concentrate

Stick in fridge until it is about half thawed then pour contents into blender.

Fill tube twice with water and pour in, once with tequila and pour in then fill tube 1/3 with triple sec.  Blend, serve, mmmm……

(Now mind you, Rodney makes these a tad stronger but this is my variation so that I do not get too tipsy.  Not pretty.)

SAMSUNG

Combine plain goat cheese with chopped green chilies and serve with crackers or chips.  Chop up tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and garlic for easy salsa.  Take one container of sour cream and add tons of garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, taco seasoning, anything really, and blend well for a fantastic easy dip.  Fresh fruit or grilled corn are easy accompaniments.  Enjoy your summer and friends!

Spring Entertaining (farmgirl style)

SAM_0279

Springtime entertaining.  Nice enough to start up the grill but still a bit chilly to eat outdoors.  So, set the table with spring colors and liveliness!  Mix matched china dishes in spring flavor, a bird cage with aspen wrapped candles, a pretty rose tablecloth underneath the lady bug vinyl cloth.  Candles scattered across the table.  Cloth napkins, mix matched silverware.  We started the meal (and finished it) with Mimosas.  I had a bottle of Champagne from my wine club and a jug of orange juice.  The bright taste was perfect with the food.

SAM_0282

The grill master went out to start the BBQ.  The charcoal briquettes were from last fall so they were less than effective.  Doug threw on some pieces of cedar, pine needles, and lit the thing on fire.  The smell was mountain-like, camp fires, the sweet smell of cedar permeating the air.  When it was hot, he added the briquettes.  He had prepared the most lovely piece of salmon.  He had slathered it in my homemade barbecue sauce which is kind of on the sweet side, adding his own touches of soy sauce, Worcestershire, and honey.  He placed it on the grill after wrapping them in foil, checking it regularly.  Eventually Nancy went to check on it and the flames lapping the sides of the food prompted us to bring it in.  It was perfect, sweet, succulent.

SAM_0281

Nancy, Faleena, and Steve joined us for a spring dinner.  They brought a little chick feeder filled with pastel colored M&Ms.  Such a clever hostess gift!  I would like to say I had a few, but all of our children were there as well.  The candy went pretty fast!

SAM_0283

I made two foil packets (I used Martha Wrap (as in Martha Stewart).  If you haven’t seen this marvel look for it at the store.  It is lined with parchment.  Inside parchment paper, outside foil, no aluminum in one’s food!)  I filled them with fingerling potatoes, half a bottle of Guinness (to Doug’s horror), sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic.  sprinkled it with salt and pepper and wrapped up the whole thing and placed it on the grill.  (Note: the potatoes take an hour on the grill, plan accordingly!)  These are what we call Beer Potatoes and they are delicious!

SAM_0285

I snapped the ends off of a bunch of asparagus and lined them up on a cookie sheet.  A drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of sea salt is all it takes.  At the last minute they go into a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes.

These can all be made ahead of time then placed on the grill or oven in appropriate time leaving plenty of time to drink Mimosas.  A quick salad adds to the meal.  Sparkling sodas for the kids in wine glasses.

SAM_0284

We finished the meal with a delicious light cake topped with strawberries and fresh whipped cream that Nancy had made.  A pot of french roast.

Cooking shouldn’t be such an intense science.  Look at what herbs you have, what spices.  What is in the root cellar, what is in the freezer?  Check for doneness.  Your nose is the best timer.  Most of all, enjoy your company, your friends, the conversation, the laughs, the Mimosas!

Ma and Pa’s Mountain Music Spectacular!

IMG_0457

“Oh play me that mountain music….like Grandma and Grandpa used to play…” I love that song.  Alabama can sure put a hop in your step!  I am sure their fiddle player started playing fiddle before the age of thirty-eight!  But it is never too late to pick up an instrument.  “I have zero musical talent,” I hear from other people.  No excuse!  Musical abilities are variable but everyone has the music in them and can play instruments.  I have been taking violin…ahem…fiddle lessons for seven months now.  It is so much fun.  My teacher is a saint.  Perhaps he wears ear plugs.  My first few months sounded like the stereotypical small child practicing.  Screech, screech, screech, screech went the bow on the strings.  Dancing not, tripping yes.  My turning point was in September when I begged for Christmas music.  Neil is trying to teach me proper Celtic fiddle, but you know, once we pass August all my thoughts are on Christmas!  Jingle Bells was the song that made me “get it”.  Still screechy but producing genuine sound, I bowed through several Christmas tunes.   The sound of the music soothing to me so long as no one was home.  Oddly enough, I can play in big crowds, or by myself, not with just a few people meandering about listening to me practice.

We are enchanted by good music.  Doug and I quizzed the children growing up, not on algebraic expressions or spelling words, but on “who sang it?”  “What play is this from?”  The kids shocked people in grocery stores shouting out Elvis, or Beach Boys, Dean Martin, Def Leopard when asked, “Who sings it?”  They were especially schooled in Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., and Doris Day.  Doug had them recognizing Chicago, Bob Dylan, and Earth Wind and Fire.

Andrew picked up his first instrument in grade school, the French horn.  Not sure why he chose it, but he learned to read basic music, did a few performances, and enjoyed it.  Then his mind turned to something else, a guitar.  Doug and I found a music shop that had set up at the mall just for Christmas and Christmas morning Andrew received his wish, a pink guitar.  Yes, our son wanted a pink guitar.  Secure early on, that was his favorite color!  He played and played and taught himself how to master the guitar.  Then he wanted a banjo.  He taught himself the banjo and would walk around the neighborhood playing for public works employees and park goers.  He was about fifteen at the time.  Pirate earring, dreadlocks, a desire to open a coffee and cigar bar in St. Thomas and homeschooled.  That child had all day to wander the neighborhood bringing smiles to everyone’s faces.  He taught himself how to play seven instruments.

IMG_0456

I am not so lucky!  I started playing the piano at eight years old.  My mother was my teacher and a great one at that.  I took piano in high school.  I took it in college.  Do you think I could sit down and play you a song?  Heck no.  Use it or lose it and my memorization skills seem to be lacking these days!  Doug has to work at it too.  To his utmost dismay, when he got his mandolin for Christmas, I think he half expected to be like Andrew and just start playing!  After three lessons he gave it up for a while.  I love the sound of the tremolo the mandolin makes.  The music from the mandolin, advanced or not, brings me such great happiness.  Doug has been inspired by my fiddle lessons and has recently picked up the mandolin again.  Perhaps we will go on the road.  A Ma and Pa Spectacular!  Or we’ll just play in our living room for brave friends.  We could charge admission.

IMG_0454

Our house was always filled with music.  Emily played the violin and the ukulele.  Shyanne, not interested in instruments, had her own instrument, her voice.  She sings like an angel.  At ten years old she was belting out tunes most adults couldn’t touch in karaoke bars across the city.  All three kids could sing so wonderfully.  We would take them to bars, yes, to let them sing.  Doug said it was homeschooling.  Music and Social Problems.  It was a great time.  I miss it.  This transition time has been rough on me as a mom.  I did not expect the kids to grow up.  My teen mommy stays with her boyfriend most of the time because he is allergic to cats and nine of them (who love him and want to sit on his face) are a bit much.  They want to get married.  Shyanne, who is 99.9% of the time with her boyfriend, working, or at school will be eighteen this year.  Andrew, ever present at dinner each night, will probably tire of his mom and dad soon enough.  He is saving up to get out of town and move back to Denver.  The music seemed to me to be dying.  I have been crying up a storm trying to get used to it.  I know nothing other than being a mom.  Since I was eighteen years old, my whole world has been my children and I do not know who I am as a person anymore.  So, the new stage in our life is this:  Who is Doug and Katie?  Who are we if we are not parents of small children?  How do you fill an empty house?

Well, to start with, we are going to fill it with mountain music.  Fiddles, and guitars, voices raised in song, friends that want to play as well.  Mandolins and tambourines.  Life is short, fill it with music!  (And for heaven’s sake, go buy an instrument and start playing!)

Farmgirl Dinner Party (with homemade pasta)

I am looking forward to more alfresco meals.  To show you pictures of meals taken next to the lilac bushes in bloom, with votives in canning jars, and flowers gracing the table but until then, we are still indoors!  It is cozy indoors and the cold is certainly keeping us in.  Nothing warms the soul quite like laughter, wine, and friends around the table.

IMG_0398

The china shown was Doug’s Great-grandma’s.  Probably over a hundred years old.  I ought to be seeing what it is worth instead of setting the table with it but isn’t that the point of nice things, to use them?  If they break, then they are but a memory but a better testament to their use than placed in the attic.  Great Grandma would be pleased that we are using her china and it would be interesting to see what she had to say if she were at the table today.

Before guests arrive I always light every candle in the house and every oil lamp.  No overhead lighting.  Sure, it’s dim, but luxuriously calming and beautiful.  A bit of jazz or classical music will be put on and guests will arrive to an open bottle of wine and instant serenity.  I will have out and ready a plate of cheese and crackers and an assortment of olives.  I particularly like the ones stuffed with garlic! I don’t wait too long to serve dinner, maybe only twenty minutes but a snack and a drink calm the senses and make one feel welcome.

I raided the root cellar for ingredients for this meal. It takes awhile but it is very easy to prepare.  You could just stop at the pasta and add homemade sauce instead of the squash/apple one that I made up.  But if you have produce or veggies in the freezer or root cellar that need using up, this is a great recipe, both savory and sweet in each bite.

IMG_0400

Homemade Pasta

First make the pasta so that it can sit in the fridge for an hour or so.

1 cup of wheat flour and 1 cup of white flour

5 eggs

1 T of olive oil

1/2 t salt

Combine all ingredients making a nice dough.  Wrap and place in fridge.

When you are ready for it, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch and use a pizza cutter to slice into 1/4 inch x 5 inch pieces

Boil for about 6 minutes.

IMG_0395

Sweet and Savory Squash and Apple Pasta Sauce

2 1/2 cups of peeled, diced butternut squash

2 small apples, diced

4 T of pesto (I had walnut and basil pesto in the freezer but you could whip some up in the food processor. Just throw in a cup of basil, 1/4 cup of walnuts, and enough olive oil drizzled in to make a chunky paste)

1 1/2 cups of diced mushrooms (mine were frozen)

3 T of mushroom and sage infused olive oil or regular olive oil (there are stores that only sell olive oils. I get mine at the Olive Tap)

Saute squash and mushrooms in olive oil covered for 8 minutes

Add apples, pesto, plus 1 T maple syrup, 2 t of sage or 4 leaves chopped, 1 T porcini oil and simmer on low for 15 minutes.

Add 3/4 t salt, 1/2 t each pepper and garlic powder, 1 t onion powder, and a pinch of cayenne

Blend well and drizzle with maple syrup and salt to taste.  Pour over pasta

Pasta Topper

Spread 2 cups of walnuts on cookie sheet

Drizzle with olive oil, ancho or cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, and salt and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Also serve with shredded cheese.  I used Drunken Goat wine infused cheese.

Wine

A California grown Cabernet Sauvignon will stand up to this meal.  It’s richness and earthy complexity will shine with the sweet and savory sauce and thick, hearty noodles.

Enjoy your dinner party!  A good board game is always a fun way to end the evening.  See you around the Scrabble board!

 

The Entertaining Farmgirl Strikes Again

IMG_0325

I love to entertain!  Being a farmgirl is not all about perpetually dirty fingernails, loose chickens, and seed catalogs.  It is about living a simple life.  Living a simple life, however, means I am not off to the theater all the time to see a play (just once in a while) like I used to be and knowing that every time I go out to eat I am spending just a little more of my future homestead money.  So, what is a girl supposed to do to have a good time?  Have friends over for dinner, drinks, and laughs of course!

My friends from the city will bring empty egg cartons to refill and will bring a dish or a drink.  We laugh until our sides hurt.  They must like coming here because it is quite a drive but they are here often and I love it.  Crossing the bridge into our little town brings instant serenity.

My friends from the country will bring a canned good or a great bottle of wine.  We skip down the country roads to each other’s houses often and enjoy a long evening of dreaming up new implements for our farms, what chicken breeds to get next year, and play music on the fiddle and guitar.

It costs nothing to have friends over and it will prove to be more fun than any movie or fancy restaurant. (Don’t get me wrong, when we do go out on a date, it costs a pretty penny.  I apparently am spoiled.)

Here are some ideas for a lovely New Year’s lunch or dinner complete with my recipe for Seafood Chowder.

First pick a decorating style:

If you use a regular tablecloth make sure it has a stunning print.  Big florals are a bit much, opt for small floral prints to create a country cottage look.  Pick up vintage floral plates at the thrift store when you see them.  Not a set, just one or two of a great old pattern.  The mix-matched look creates whimsy on the table.  Use votives strewn across the table for light.  Cloth napkins and tea cups with a pot of great tea would make a lovely theme.

You could use a bright oil cloth table covering; they are shiny and fun and add a touch of vintage to your table.  Solid plates, earthenware preferably, but plain colored dishes set off the colors in the oil cloth.  Amusing sayings on cocktail napkins give an element of surprise when folks pick up their napkin.  I have a few right now that say, “Can I be the designated drinker?”

How about an Indian blanket like the one shown?  It adds a pop of southwestern to the table.  Use wood candle holders or faux wood candles and pine cones to decorate the table.  Fiesta ware or even toile china looks great on these blankets.  Wine glasses add sparkle and cloth napkins will complete the look.

Lastly, a quilt as the table cloth, mix-matched china, small canning jars for drinks, and tall candles with a tea pot filled with flowers create a funky elegance to your gathering.

With this seafood recipe, Champagne would be excellent.  So would a  Pinot Grigio but being a red lover, I found that a good Pinot Noir fits nicely as well.  A loaf of fresh Italian or French bread is a must to sop up the glorious dredges.  Happy New Year my friends!

Seafood Chowder New Year’s Style

5 T of olive oil

1 cup of minced onion, 4 celery stalks chopped, and 4 cloves of garlic minced

Saute in oil until onion is just turning brown

Add 4 potatoes chopped up small and 6 cups of broth (I used onion broth)

Boil for 15 minutes and using potato masher, mash potatoes some to thicken

Add 4 cups of corn (preferably that you canned last summer)

28 oz shrimp and 24 oz of crab meat

1 cup of cream

1 t of bay seasoning, 1 t of seafood seasoning, and 1 t of Cajun seasoning (I have way too much fun at Savory Spice Shop, you could use a blend of dill, paprika, salt, lemon pepper, garlic, etc.)

Heat through another 10 minutes.  This serves 12 so feel free to pare it down to how many people you are serving!

 

Reindeer Droppings

Andy  (Andrew)

Mom’s Busy Day Cookies were a staple at our house. It was wonderful to come home some days from school and see the delicious cookies lining the counters on wax paper cooling. I really thought my mother invented these so imagine my surprise when I saw them at a cookie swap as an adult, and thought, ‘Is my mom here?’

When Andy was in fifth grade, the class made a recipe book for Christmas presents and each child was to bring in a recipe. I sent him off with Mom’s Busy Day Cookie recipe. When the precious book came home in his smiling hands I turned to the page with our recipe in it just to see it called “Reindeer Droppings.” “Reindeer Droppings!” I exclaim, “Why did you call them that?” He smiled the classic little boy mischievious/innocent grin and said, “That’s what they look like!”

When you have company over to open presents, place a cinnamon stick in with the coffee grounds before adding water to the coffee maker or French press and whip up some of these no-bake, easy, and delicious…um…Reindeer Droppings, and enjoy!

Reindeer Droppings (aka: Mom’s Busy Day Cookies)

2 C. sugar

1 stick butter

1/4 t. salt

1/2 C. milk

¼ C. cocoa

½ C. peanut butter

3 1/2 C. rolled oats

1 t. vanilla

Measure sugar, butter, salt, milk and cocoa into a large saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved, over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter, rolled oats and vanilla; mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls on waxed paper. Cool completely

Yield about 3 dozen.

The Entertaining Farmgirl

IMG_0272

People often think of homesteaders as those who go out and survive on their own away from society and civilization.  Most homesteaders know that one cannot become a hermit.  A better term than “self sufficient” would be “community sufficient”.  I could not possibly make and provide everything my family needs.  So, I depend on Miller Farms to help me out when I fall a little short on my gardening goals.  When I need goat cheese for a recipe (like the one  below) I call on Nancy who has goats.  When she needs herbal medicines, she calls on me even though she took my classes and knows how to make them, time catches us all at the end of the day and sadly, we cannot do everything!  I get honey from someone else until I get my hives in the spring.  I provide a lot of preserved food and fresh eggs and physical labor to my mini-homestead.  Even when I get the whole farm and can grow enough animal feed, peeople feed, legumes, eggs, fruit, honey, and can mostly take care of myself, we might fall short on wood one year, or need someone to help us sheer the alpacas.  God didn’t design us to walk it alone!  We can have our little haven but we’ll always seek out the company of like minded people.  Here’s some ideas when you invite them to supper!

Candles and twinkly lights are my arsenol all year long.  The rooms look so beautiful softly lit with candles, oil lamps, and Christmas lights.  I understand once I go off grid, I will have to find a source for solar twinkly lights!  In the meantime, I buy a year’s worth in season.  It is my downfall and my vice, but they make me so darn happy!  Tons of candles (that the cats can’t reach) and oil lamps light up the dark corners and everyone looks fabulous after a hard day working on the farm in the glow of flame (small, not out of control flame).

Inexpensive gold chargers make each place at the table special.  The candlelight bounces off the luster and the table seems to sparkle.  I will one day, when the children move out, buy some crystal wine glasses that will really sparkle!  In the meantime I have mix-matched glassware and small canning jars.  Luckily if you keep pouring the wine, no one cares.  I use my Christmas dishes or fine china.  No use keeping everything locked up.  You’ll never enjoy them in the attic.

This meal is super easy to prepare and oh so delicious!  Serve a bold red wine to balance the goat cheese.  We had a great Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah blend from Argentina.  One day the wine will come out of my own cellar!

Oyster Mushroom and Truffle Goat Cheese Pasta

2 oz of dried oyster mushrooms reconstituted (I get mine from Savory Spice Shop)

Marinate mushrooms in 3/4 cup of marsala wine for 30 minutes

In the meantime mince 3 cloves of garlic and saute in 1 Tablespoon of butter

Add mushrooms and wine plus 2 more Tablespoons of butter and cook for 5 minutes.

Add 1 Tablespoon each of fresh parsley and thyme plus a pinch of cayenne

Add 3 shakes of liquid smoke, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and paprika

Stir in 2 cups of fresh goat cheese, 3/4 cup of cream, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and heat on low for 10 minutes stirring to blend

Whisk in 1 Tablespoon of flour to thicken. Cook for 5 more minutes or so.

Serve over 16 oz of pasta.

A great big salad drizzled with sesame oil, a bit of rice wine vinegar, a handful of sesame seeds makes a great side dish.  Place salt and pepper at table so everyone can season.