Happy Holidays

So another season has ended. It has gotten cold here in central Virginia. With winter comes snow and ice and needed water for the new year. Like everyone in my area the garden was trying this year. Too much water then not enough. We have learned and lost( losing my buddy Walter after 13yr to old age) and we will picked ourselves up and start again in the new year.

Spring brings us the chance to start anew, fix our mistakes and enjoy the outdoors. So start planning now and hope you enjoy you gardening in the future with me.

Happy Holidays!!

Grnthmbd1

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Woodson’s Mill

So the family and I set out on an adventure this Labor Day weekend. We have been fans of the Farmer’s Market. We spend mornings in the Spring and Summer traveling to The Charlottesville City Market and The Orange Farmer’s market. We enjoy the festive atmosphere and the good eats.

So my wife Heather asked me if I would be interested in going on the Farm Tour. I had heard of the tour before and just not had the opportunity to go.  At $15 a car it is a bargain for a day’s worth of entertainment. We as a family are always looking for a way to spend time together without spending lots of money. We also think that it is important to know where your food comes from and the work it takes to make it. Kids have lost touch thinking the food come from the fridge and the money on the ATM card never runs out.

So at 8:30 am this past Monday we set out from our home in Keswick to Woodson’s Mill in Nelson Co. The adults were excited to see a working grain mill. The kid would get exposure to a bit of working history. The drive would be pleasant and the back drop of the Blue Ridge Mountain is hard to beat.

Upon arrival we were surprised that it was not busier. Two or three cars had beaten us to the punch. The temperature had begun to rise and soon would become quite warm. Two thing were quite apparent; first the sound of falling water through the sluice was amazing, and secondly the warm greeting with pancakes, cookies, scones water and iced tea wonderful.

While we were trying the fare (the kid loving cookies before lunch!) we were also being introduced to the products of the Woodson’s Mill. All the fare had been produced with flour products of the mill. If you have not trying fresh ground flour or cornmeal product you are missing out. The texture and flavor are very different from what you buy at the store. The cookies melt in your mouth, and the corn bread has a sweetness I had thought to be a long past obsession.

After drinking some iced tea and taking a picture and some video of the outside of the Mill, we ventured inside.  I have been in or around different types of mills over the years. Woodson’s was the cleanest and quietest I have experienced.  As they powered up the grinding stone and loaded the grain hopper with corn to grind to meal, you are struck by how something over 200 years old works so well.

In talking with the owner’s I found out that nothing goes to waste. After grinding the husks are sold for hog feed. So in essence the mill is producing two products at once. I was able to shoot some video of the grinding wheel in action and the grain elevator; all being run by a tremendous wheel turning outside. I am in the process of uploading the videos and have posted one to Meet Yer Eats’ Facebook page and to the Woodson’s Mill Facebook page

We bought some wares in the store (pancake mix and cornmeal) to enjoy at home. We sat buy the creek and enjoyed another peach preserve filled cookie taking in the scenery. Interesting fact in the 50’s the Mill was the Lover’s Lane parking spot. The creek was wider then and couples would drive in and wash their cars then picnic in the shade of the trees.

I would recommend as a nice day trip and a neat bit of working history. Pack a picnic basket and some cool drinks and head to Nelson. On your way you can stop at an orchard, a brewery or a stream for some fishing. I hope you like the pictures and videos

 

Till next time Good Gardening!

 

 

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Annual Beford Chili Cookoff!!!

So over the weekend I attended my aunt’s annual chili cook-off. I took home a prize last year so I was hell bent on a repeat this year. It is a Family event that Amy has hosted for at least 13 years if I remember correctly. Though last year was the first time the stars aligned and I was able to attend. Since I had such a good time last year I marked my calendar and was certain to attend again this year armed with the finest one pot of beans and spice I could come up with.

 

After winning Tastiest chili last year, I was feeling a little full of myself. I embarked on a new line and headed down the path least taken. I decided last November that I was going to undertake seafood in my chili this year.

 

So the planning began. I wanted a chili that was not chowder, no cream, no corn, and no potatoes. I started thinking of what beans I wanted to use. Now I will freely admit that when I list my ingredients and cooking techniques, that both are overdone.  I like to cook. I will go to great lengths to get exactly what I want in a dish. No amount of dishes and time will deter me from my goal of putting out my finest.

 

I usually cook my chili over several days. This year I cooked for three days in a five day stretch resting the beans, corn stock and tomato stock for two days. So here goes the ingredient list for the chili:

 

Corn stock:

6 cobs of corn

1/2 a sweet onion

1/2 stick of butter

6 medium cloves of garlic

2 bottles of New Belgium ale w/ coriander

Merlot salt

Cracked pepper

Onion powder

Turmeric

 

Tomato stock:

 

5lb of heirloom tomatoes

Salt

Pepper

1/4 cup onion

4 cloves of garlic

Olive oil

 

Beans:

2 cans black eyed peas

2 cans chickpeas

2 cans butterbeans

Salted Pork belly

1/2 a sweet onion

6 cloves of garlic

Cilantro

3 red jalapenos

6 Anaheim peppers

1 Bud light

 

Chili ingredients other than the ones listed above:

 

1lb Jumbo lump crab meat

1lb mussels

1/4lb squid heads

1/2lb sea scallops

1/4lb aged smoked maple wood bacon

Chili powder

Cayenne powder

Garlic powder

Saffron

Sea salt

Cumin

Black pepper

Honey

Chorizo (Mexican sausage)

Smoked paprika

Bud light (1 bottle)

1 can red beans

2 cans pink beans

 

Yes this makes a lot of chili. I made 12 quarts this year. I had maybe 1/2 a quart left. I figured enough for 75 people to taste and 20 to have a bowl or three.

 

So now that we have assembled spices, ingredients, proteins, beans, pots, pans

grown peppers and tomatoes; it is time to cook.

 

Day 1:  Dice tomatoes; add onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil to 5 quart crock pot. Cook on low over night.

 

On a sheet pan covered with foil, place peppers, coat with oil, salt and pepper.

Place in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Take out and let cool. Once cool place in plastic bag for later.

 

Day 2:  Turn off tomatoes and let them cool. Once cool place in blender and puree. Once puree is done place through a food sieve. Discard pulp and seeds.

I take this step to eliminate any bitterness they may cause. Refrigerate.

 

Next I prepare the corn puree. Into an eight quart pot I placed 6 cobs of corn cut from the cob and cobs in a the pot, butter, merlot salt, both bottles of ale, garlic, onion powder, turmeric, pepper and bring to a boil. Once to up to heat, remove cobs and scrape out the milk. Once cool puree in blender and place through a sieve to remove pulp and solids. Place in refrigerator.

 

In crock pot place beans(chick peas, butter beans, and black eye peas), pork belly, cilantro, jalapeno, Anaheim, garlic, onion and a bud light. Remember to wash and drain the beans. I use beer instead of water in all of my chili. In addition to flavor the beer is filtered and has the right acidity to balance the other ingredients in the chili. Leave on low overnight. Once cooked, cool and refrigerate.

 

After two day of becoming happy in the ice box remove and place back in the 12 quart crock pot. Add tomato, and corn purees. Chop cook, and bacon, and chorizo into pot. Turn to warm and cover. Now it is time to cook off scallops, squid, mussels and clams; I sautéed them in butter, onions, and garlic. The clams and mussels I add in addition that other bud light, you can use wine, or water if you choose. If using water please use salt and pepper to season. Cool clean and place in refrigerator. Reduce and add saffron and add stock to chili. Cook overnight. The crab I bought cleaned and cooked. Season to taste. I will allow you to season to your taste I added a 1/4 tsp. of dry spices except paprika, which I added 1/2 tsp.   You have layered the seasoning so much, that not much additional seasoning will be needed. I suggest if you want it spicier to add hot sauce from a bottle when eating.

 

If serving add seafood after 4 hrs. of cooking. At this point add 2 tablespoons of honey and a touch of salt.

 

Yes it is way over the top, a lot of cooking and meant as a one off. If you go to the great extent of these steps I hope you enjoy eating it as much as I did making it. I spent roughly $150.00 US on this chili. Worth every bit!!

 

I did win again, this time in the most unique category! Next year owfl chili coming to a table near you.!!

 

Till next time good gardening!!

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More for Somerset Steam and Gas Festival!!

This another video of the Saw mill at Somerset in action. I hope you enjoy!

Till next time good Gardening!

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Somerset Steam Festival Sawmill!

Somerset Sawmill run by a Steam engine.  Steam still works no matter how fancy things have gotten.

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Somerset Steam Gas Festival 2.0

Here is the Parade of Tractors from the Somerset Steam and Gas Festival 2012.

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Somerset Steam and Gas Festival 2012

One of the Steam Giants!

These are pictures I took at Somerset of the steam tractors a week ago with my kids. I hope you enjoy!

 

Would make a good First tractor!

Hard to believe this is only 13 Horsepower!

 

Gaar Scott with dual water tanks!

 

Cooling Down, This steam Giant comes From Crozet.

Driver Compartment on a Case Tractor.

Dad this one is really Big!

The original multi use lawn tractor.

 

David Bradley fully restored and looking good!

 

More video to come of the Steam Engine Parade in the next Post!

Till next time good gardening!

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A Walk In The Woods! Mushrooms and Kids.

 

 

These were some  mushrooms that we found in woods with my girls. The most unique mushroom we found was the white coral type. We found that in a stand of pines.  We were looking for oyster an other edibles but none where to be found.

 

More mushroom hunting to come in the future.

 

Till next time good gardening!

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Local Lunch and Obamacare!

So with all the upcoming election, maybe the most important in 20 years, I am underwhelmed by the dibble I am hearing from the opposing sides. The right seems focused that Obama has done nothing but chase bad money with good. The left to moderate contingency seems focused that Romney has too much money and wants to play good ‘ole boy with your money.

 

While both side have points to be made, they seem to be glossing over some of the changes that a trickling down from ObamaCare. The Healthcare bill known as ObamaCare (though ratified into law by both House of Congress), has had an impact on America. Time will tell if this impact has value. The changes are so subtle that the most people will not see them (labeling, ingredient listing, and origination of products) more about this later.

The most impactful change is to school lunch. We have all seen the crusade Michelle Obama has been on to improve the help of America’s youth. Most often the focus is School Lunch and why not! Over 70% of children in some areas buy lunch every day. Most of this is government subsidized through federal lunch programs. So if our government wants to impact the shape of our children, shaping what they eat seems like the logical choice.

I have been everything from appalled to outraged by the lack of choice and guidance given when choosing what to eat in the lunch line. Often my children thought school lunch was great, but when we got to the brass tacks of what they ate it would be French fries and chocolate milk. I would ask what else there was to eat and why they didn’t eat veggies of fruit and they would say they didn’t have too.

We eat local and fresh as much as possible. We even grow a healthy garden and practice freezing and canning to keep fresh for later in the season.  So I was concerned that when the emphasis in school lunches was fat, starch and sugar.   Protein, vitamins and minerals seem to get much less billing and even concern. The food pyramid seems as out of date as it did when I was in school 20 years ago. I was also put back by the lack of concern this type of food had on learning and behavior. With a high priority on disciple in the schools and a lack of accountability of the impact food has in this area, I am amazed more parents don’t put it together. The schools often pass this problem on to the parents and don’t take any reasonable responsibility to how a fat sugar laden diet may affect the kids.

Now under ObamaCare schools have been given the mandate to help student make the right choices. Now at least double French fry and double chocolate milk lunches will be less likely. Given a choice over time; kids make the right choices. If introduced properly to unique varieties of fruits and veggies at a young age kids will be more likely to choose these items over chips and candy.

One of my fondest memories growing up was being taken to The Roanoke City Market in preschool, then picking items for the Thanksgiving celebration the following week. I pick pomegranate, and till this day and long before it was labeled a super food have enjoyed this exciting fruit. We do what we know, the more we are exposed to the more informed choices we will make later. My mother often credits her children’s lack of inhibition towards fruits and vegetables for changing her mind and enjoying a greater variety of these.

Though starting here is good, but more could and should be done. We get so lost in teaching to test our kids are often left by the wayside and uninspired by the school learning environment. Little attention to science and history in the schools leads to little foundation for knowing what makes an area great. Virginia for example has long been known for innovative farms and farming techniques. The likes of Washington, Jefferson and Madison, used crop rotation techniques, along will diversity programs that would make most organic farm jealous today. So attaching emphasis to where the things we eat come from at an early age may inspire the next generation of scientist and farmers alike.

School garden programs and special meals with a local tone (ingredients from less than 100 miles) could be the logical next step. The school garden teaches responsibility, work ethic and a relationship between the Earth and our kids.  In a world of smart phones and video games, problem solving and common sense seem to be waning. Diet improves this ability to think, gardening improves health and esteem. Our kids could use a little of both in a world where we rank 35th academically and lower than we should in fitness.

Now back to the labeling issue. I was surprised if not astonished to find the level of saturation in the American diet of NutraSweet, MSG, and soy oil. I suffer from migraines and all of these seem likely triggers for my headaches, MSG being the worst. Thanks to the change in the labels this last fall I have been able to identify to my shock the number of foods that I was eating containing the three ingredients. My wife was in tears at the grocery when first trying to buy foods that did not contain one or all of these three substances.

Though MSG and soy oil are natural many people are allergic, or sensitive to these items. Bad labeling practices have allowed there inclusion in foods label natural, and or healthy. Now that ingredients have to be listed in order and opaqueness as to what is in composite ingredient have to be disclosing I can now more readily eliminate these and nitrates from my diet. The bonus is I have less than three migraines a month (as oppose to ten or more, some lasting two days). I feel healthier and feel much better.

This can only bode better for our children and for the likes of me. So ObamaCare is not a dirty word. The right should recognize that a good diet is not just for the wealthy but for all Americans. We the middle class should benefit from what we grow, not just financially and the Schools should be rewarded for innovation in lunch and teaching not made to conform to some bad idealized educational model that is getting us nowhere fast. We should inspire brilliance not feed and test for mediocrity!

 

Till next time good gardening!

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Top 10 things to Do With Your Summer Veggies!!

So there are lot vegetables out there. More and more things are grown locally; there are more fruits and vegetables to pick from. I have come to realize many people do not try new and unique fare for lack of what to do with what they may find. Some things that are showing up in greater numbers are kohlrabi, Pattypan squash, Purple potatoes, red okra, chilies, and greens. So since it is the middle of Market season, I wanted to talk about 10 things to do with summer fare.

 

1) Salad:     When in doubt try it in salad. I have been pleasantly surprise on several occasions by the taste of herds and greens in a salad.  Often we would not think to include the likes of clover, bee balm, radish greens, okra sprouts, and lovage leaves to name a few. Not only do these have surprising tastes but the textures they offer are unique.

2) Slaw:     Kohlrabi, yes it looks like something from another planet. This vegetable from the cabbage family is hardy full of flavor and keeps well. Grown originally as livestock feed, it has become the darling of the Farmer’s Market in the past couple years.  I have found it to make an excellent slaw, grated with green apple, green onion, Greek yogurt, honey, salt, pepper, and toasted almonds. Eaten alone or added to sandwiches and sausage it will surely please the summer palate.

3) Pickles:      Something I do from time to time in the summer is make pickles. I like to use some of my cucumbers, peppers, and left-over beet juice to produce tangy treat for my family. We have all seen them on the counter of country stores, pickled eggs. I finally got the courage to try on awhile back. I like eggs and have not found a way of preparation that was unappealing. As off putting as the chemical list of ingredient was on the side of the jar I was up for the adventure. Then I bit into it. Yuck was the first thing that came to mind, salt was the second. Enamored by the stories of my grandfather’s fondness for these pickle creations, I thought there had to be more to it than the vulcanized egg I was currently choking down.  I went through some book I had and found a recipe that used beet juice, white vinegar, sugar, and salt. Now that is a far cry from the chemical soup the store bought variety where swimming in. I boiled eggs placed them in the vacuum canister, heated up the ingredients for pickling, combined and seal. After a week I popped open the jar eager to try if I had made any improvement. Wow what difference! Since then I have tried spinach and carrot juice also. Each vegetable adding its own earth notes all equally as good! Bonus my kids also love them and make cool additions to the kid’s lunch boxes. I am eager to try duck and quail eggs prepared this way.

4) Gratin: From the French to grate or scrape. This is a dish that can be used to cook potatoes, squash, beans, fennel, and celery. Slice vegetables very thin and layer in a gratin or another shallow dish. Add a sauce, cream, butter, or oil. Topped with egg, bread crumbs, and cheese, cook in hot oven till bubbly.  Sprinkle with herbs salt and pepper and enjoy!

5) Pasta: So let’s talk Italian.  Cook ragu of vegetables (tomatoes, squash, onions, garlic, and herbs) add oil, white wine, and pasta d’ jour. Ten to 15 minutes and dinner is ready. If you want add cheese, chicken, tofu or any other protein. Everything is better in pasta! I recently added fried green tomatoes as a substitution in my eggplant parm. Wow tangy goodness!

6) Freezing:     Storing a bit of summer for a winter meal is a great way to try something. Usually in the dead of winter, all frosty and cold, I try new things. The brightness, and freshness of fresh frozen veggies, holds true till you use them. I had a bumper crop of okra last year, so I have nice tender okra to use in my recipes any time I want creole, Cajun or even Indian cuisine. Beans also freeze extremely well, along with greens and varieties of herbs.

7) Canning:     I have tried canning, and like it to store sauces, soup, tomatoes, and salsa. I generally use it more for foods that are more processed. Though canned sauce you have from scratch beats anything you can buy. Last year I made tomatoes soup and stored it. We enjoyed it in February with grilled cheese on snowy day!

8) Drying: This works especially well with herbs. Basil oregano and rosemary do very well. I hang in a dark place till dry, and then place in labeled jars for later use.

9) Vacuum Sealing: We have adopted this as our go to method of storage and a way to save our garden for the year.  By the end of the summer our freezer and pantry are full, share we buy from CSA’s and markets along with what we grow supplement what we buy for the rest of the year.

10) Seed saving: If you see something you want to grow and you can’t find seeds, buy some and save the seeds by drying. This works great for squash, cubits, and tomatoes. This way if you try it like it and it becomes unavailable you can now grow your own.

Hopefully this is helpful. Remember be adventurous with your eating you never know when you may find something you love!

 

Till next time good gardening!

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