Sunday, January 12, 2014

Farm Story 8 A Remembrance

   The Burnett Farm family has lost the last of its third  generation.  Ethel Leffert was taken into the Lord's  hands on January 3, 2014. 
   Aunt Ethel was the keeper of traditions.  Birthdays were special celebrations.  A birthday party at Aunt Ethel's meant a table filled with the most wonderful selection of food, both new and old family recipes.  There never was just one birthday cake, but at least two.  One being the favorite of the person whose birthday it was and another being an equally wonderful choice. For the indecisive, it was just necessary to have a small piece of each.  It was there at her table that I found the fun in discovering new recipes and treasuring the old family recipes. No one left her table hungry.  I came to see it as another way that Aunt Ethel expressed her love.

   Aunt Ethel loved children and they responded in kind.  In our family, it began with Bill, then our children, Wes and Sharon, and finally, our 18 month-old grandson, who would get back to our door after a stroller ride and say, "effel, effel, yes" and look in the direction of her house. He wanted to visit.

   Three generations of children were drawn to her genuine true expression of love that children know when it is real.  

   There are so many years of wonderful occasions to remember, but there is one additional treasure for us.   Over the past few years Bill and I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Aunt Ethel each week.  She would bring out the old photos and tell anecdotes that gave glimpses into her life growing up on the Burnett farm.   

   On the farm is a very large rock located next to the barn foundation. It didn't have much significance until Aunt Ethel revealed why this is no ordinary rock. This rock is for sitting. 

   One day, I’ll take our grandson, Jack, and we‘ll sit on that very large rock and I”ll tell him the Wednesday night stories that Aunt Ethel told us.  I'll point to the pony horseshoe cemented into the foundation wall and tell him about the young girl and her brother who set off in their pony cart going into the woods to gather ground pine for Christmas decorations. And how, on their way back, that pony made it to the tree line, had home in sight and took off like a flash leaving Aunt Ethel, as told in her own words, "holding on for dear life, scared and screaming all the way," until that pony reached the barn and stopped.  

   Or, I'll tell the story of the little girl who went to town with her mother to purchase groceries.  The trip was a five mile bus and trolley ride to reach their destination.  On the way home they would pass the most wonderful sweet shop with éclairs - her absolute favorite.  One time, Ethel asked her mother for an éclair.  Her mother replied that it was her choice, but if she had her éclair there wouldn't be enough money for an éclair and a bus ride home. It would mean walking the last two miles - carrying the groceries - a sobering thought for a child. Bus ride or eclair? What would she do? How long did she ponder this choice? That is not known, but they did walk the last two miles, and at least one had a joyful spring in her step and a sweet taste on her tongue.

   I will tell him that this very rock was the sitting rock for his Great Aunt Ethel and her sister, his great grandma, to watch as his great great grandma milked the family cow.  The expression on her face as she fondly reminisced is etched in my mind.

   All of this we know because she graciously shared the memories of her life adding depth to our family history. We loved listening to these stories as her eyes would sparkle, her voice would become filled with the emotion from that moment in time, and her heart was young again.  

   We treasure the memories of family get-togethers, the traditions, and stories that have become the ribbon that ties generations together. Aunt Ethel has enriched our lives; we are so much more because of her.

    In the words of Helen Keller, "What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." 
She is a part of who we are and we will remember.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Farm Story 7 Aunt Kate - Every Family Should Have One

The home for the new parlor sofa
Oh, Aunt Kate, wouldn't you have been fun to know?

     Aunt Kate was father George's sister.  She lived in the nearby town of Summit. Apparently, being a woman of the town, she  could very helpful if not wise when it came to picking out furniture.  The Burnett farm home's front room needed a new piece of furniture.  

     Mary's vision was a nice comfy couch. Wouldn't it be nice to have one that would cradle those who sat and warmed themselves by the parlor stove after a hard day's work? Or, one that held you as the spring breezes blew through the open window?Well, it would have been.

     Aunt Kate must have been visiting when the decision to choose new furniture was made. Somehow the selection of the couch was left up to Aunt Kate. Furniture choice reflects  a combination of personality and need.  Whose personality would be reflected if Aunt Kate was the one to make the choice? 

     Now, at this point knowing more about Aunt Kate brings a greater understanding of the story. Aunt Kate had a fondness for cigars.  Not just to look at of course, or inhale the first sweet whiff of smoke from a newly lit cigar. She could be found sitting next to the wood stove in the Burnett kitchen puffing away on her cigar.  And, when the end turned to ash she would reach on over and tap that cigar ash right into the stove. She was given the task of  picking  the perfect comfy couch.  Well, comfy? Maybe not.  Evidently cigar-smoking Aunt Kate was made of tougher stuff.   Tough lady, tough sturdy couch.

     Her couch choice was a leather-like green material, more sturdy than comfy.  Even though not at all what Mary had envisioned, the sofa was placed in the parlor. And tough like Kate, the sofa was right there until the house was emptied many years later.

For potato chip lovers a great recipe by Ellie Krieger adapted from Comfort Food Fix     
           Smoked Paprika Potato Chips 
Nonstick cooking spray
2 large russet potatoes (about 1-1/4 lb. total), unpeeled
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp sweet Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt

1. Oven 400°F. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray.

2. Slice the potatoes using a mandoline into very thin (1/16-inch) rounds. Rinse the potatoes well under cold water, then spread them on paper towels. Dry completely using more paper towels.

3. Whisk together the oil, paprika, and salt. Add the potatoes and toss to  coat evenly.

4. Spread the potatoes in a single layer onto the baking sheets.
Bake until the potatoes are crisp and browned and release easily from the baking tray, 12 to 30 minutes. Small variations in slice thickness can make a big difference in cooking time, check the trays after 8 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter to remove any chips that are already done, then return the rest to the oven if necessary. The chips will crisp further as they cool. Once cool, store in a paper bag for up to 3 days.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Counting and Counting On

Some of the 170
     Count the growing daffodil bulbs, hoping most of the 170 planted last fall will grow.
     Count the chickens hoping the fox didn't get any (not so easy).
     Count the geese (easy, there are only 7).
     Count the strawberry plants that survived the winter; imagine all the strawberries.
     Count the apple trees that survived the winter and will bloom.
     Count the 2 cats, the 4 sheep, and the two horses as they come in at night.
     Count the seedlings in the greenhouse that germinated and are still growing.
First responders

     There are so many different things to count on the farm, consciously and subconsciously. Counting, especially when the numbers match, gives some continuity to each day and a feel of certainty in an uncertain world.
     However, counting on certain events where Mother Nature is involved, is an exercise in humility.  Just when you start to count on something, nature can come in and remind and prove once again that one cannot entirely control the environment.

Delicate apple blossoms

     So enjoy the wonderful thoughts imagining the beautiful daffodils to come out of hiding, the many pints of tasty strawberries, the seedlings growing into strong healthy plants, and the beautiful delicate flowers of the apple trees.  Notice there is no mention of counting on the sweet juicy taste of apples right off the tree.  Apparently, the trees were planted for the squirrels since they count on stealing every apple each year.

"All I have seen teaches me to trust
the creator for all I have not seen."

Ralph Waldo Emerson 
     If not counting the number of things than one can pretty much cautiously count on certain occurences.  The crocus will bloom first, then daffodills, the pear tree, the apple trees, delicate wild violets in the grass, azaleas, and strawberries and so on.           The wave of blossoms from all the different species one after another seems just too orderly, too much a part of a greater plan than leaving this progression to evolution.  One can only witness the blooms and feel that spring holds the magic of divine intervention.

Grape Tray Deluxe with Lemon Sauce 5*
eggs, well beaten
lemon juice
1 to 2
grated lemon peel
miniature marshmallows
seedless red grapes
seedless green grapes
seedless purple grapes
  In medium saucepan, combine eggs, sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium-low heat about 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in lemon peel and marshmallows until marshmallows are melted. Refrigerate.
  Wash grapes and separate into clusters. Arrange on tray with bowl of lemon sauce in center; serve sauce with spoon.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Desperately Seeking . . .

S p r i n g !  
     Where is it?  What about that Punxsutawney Phil?  He predicted an early spring.  Television reports that people are ready to do him in for his false prognostication.  A lawyer in NY wants to sue - that would be like a New Yorker.  The fact that the TV news has found this reportable information makes one wonder, "Do we just need someone - thing - to take the blame?" Seriously, he better tuck himself as far back as he can in his burrow.  
Spring !

     March has been cold and windy, but that's usually what March is.  Anything better than that is pure luck. But it is also a time when the robins do come back and the birds start to greet the early morning by singing.  So maybe one isn't going to feel spring, but it is here, just not in the way most would like.

     Spring - just get up early - as in before dawn - and listen for the birds. 

This recipe adapted from America's Best Lost Recipes is spring in a dessert.
                     Upside-Down Lemon Pudding Cake 
2 large eggs , separated, at room temperature
2 T unsalted butter, softened
2/3  cup sugar
2 T flour
2 T lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
1 cup milk

1.  Oven to 350, place rack in center of oven. Grease six 6-ounce ramekins.
2. Using medium-high speed, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar together, medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape bowl as needed. 
Reduce the speed to medium and add the egg yolks, mixing until incorporated. Add the flour, lemon zest, and salt. beat until combined.
     Add the lemon juice and milk, beat until incorporated. Fold in the egg whites. Pour the batter into the 
     Place the dishes in a large baking pan and add enough boiling
water to the pan so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

3. Bake until the top is golden and the center springs back when gently
pressed, 35 to 45 minutes for a large baking dish and 25 to 35 minutes for
the individual ramekins. Transfer the dishes to a rack to cool completely,
at least 1 1/2 hours. (The pudding cakes can be refrigerated for up to 2
days. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.) To
serve, run a paring knife around the edges of the dish and invert onto a

 Serve at room temperature.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Tale of the Curl

     March 18 - It should have been/could have been warmer and the sun shining, but it wasn't. After all, spring is a mere two days away.  One look out the window took away all of the wishing and guessing.  The red sky in the morning combined with a tight curl of the rhododendron leaves were the foreboding signs of the weather now and to come.  

Mother Nature's thermometer
     Rhododendron leaves are Mother Nature's thermometer.  Normally they are fairly flat.That tight curl means it's not spring so put on the heavy winter clothes - again - to go out to the barn - expect the temperature to be nothing higher than the very low twenties.  Maybe even colder.  But who actually cares after reaching a certain low, anything lower doesn't seem to make much difference.  

     For a barn, the low twenties mean water freezes in the troughs and definitely make a point not to let any splash on your clothes - that is an instant return to the house to change.

      Apparently none of the animals seem to mind the cold, but I can't help but think all would be happier with a good dose of sunshine.

Great for St. Pat's Day or any day, this recipe is adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Book.

1 lb red potatoes or yukon gold potato -- unpeeled
4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled 
1/4 cup milk
1 T butter
3 oz cheddar or other hard cheese, grated 
  salt and pepper -- to taste

     Quarter potatoes and boil in lightly salted water until tender.
     Remove potatoes from liquid, set aside. Drain,reserving the liquid,and set them aside to cool. In the reserved liquid boil the cabbage and onion for about 5 minutes- Drain and set
     Peel and mash potatoes with
milk,butter,and salt and pepper,to taste.
     Mix in the reserved onion and cabbage.
     Mix 2/3 of the cheese with the potatoes and transfer to a shallow baking dish.
     Sprinkle  remaining cheese on top.
     Heat in oven and let cheese on top brown slightly.

Extra cheese and bacon won't hurt! 


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Farm Story 6 The Ride or the Eclair?

     The choice is not nearly as dramatic as the enigmatic story of "The Lady or the Tiger," but is nevertheless a window on human nature and the bond between a parent and a child.

     Burnett Farm is located approximately 5 1/2  miles from the nearest small city.  Most likely considered a small town in the early days, one could go there by using local bus transportation to a trolley stop and then take the trolley to the destination. Ethel and her mother would make this trip to town to purchase groceries.

     The trip was probably worth a good half day's time, but at least they didn't have to walk, or would they?

     Ethel knew there was a shop that sold the most tempting of all sweets.  That would be eclairs.  As young children are want to do, the question was put to her mother, " May I have an eclair?"  Her mother, mindful that on a whim for eating an eclair, knew their own trip home would become more arduous. Still, her mother must have looked patiently at her and given her a choice. She explained the consequence of choosing  an eclair.
Home in sight on the other side of Dugway Hill

     There wouldn't be enough money for an eclair and the bus ride home.

     Choosing the eclair would mean a long, almost 2 mile walk, with groceries to carry, and up the proverbial hill - steep and long Dugway Hill - to trudge to the top and over the other side before reaching home.
     Was Ethel's mother secretly keeping her fingers crossed, hoping that her daughter would choose the bus?  Probably not; more likely she was taking in the joy at being able to give her child a choice and delighting in being able to grant a wish.

     Choices, choices, what to do?  On the one hand, staring out at the child, was an irresistible chocolate covered confection with a creamy inside just perfect to sink teeth into and on the other, was a bus ride that would take them and their groceries home in just a short amount of time.  Eclair plus a 45 minute walk carrying groceries versus a bus ride.

     Her mother left the choice up to Ethel.  Did she deliberate over the consequences of the decision she was about to make?  Which would she choose?  Did her mother try to steer her choice in any particular direction?  Well, that part of the story is unknown, but the decision was made.

The eclair eater, first from right.
Brothers  James and  Robert, sister  Lillian 
     And so together they did, with groceries in hand, walk the last leg of the journey home.  And, at least one of them had a spring in her step from the wonderful taste of an eclair.

As always, a  reliable recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated.  In spite of the length, it goes together rather quickly and as with CI recipes well worth the effort.
Chicken Pot Pie with a Savory Biscuit Crumble Crust
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
3 c chicken broth
2 Tb olive oil oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 medium carrots, 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 small celery stalks, chopped fine
 salt and black pepper 
10 oz mushrooms, sliced thin
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp tomato paste
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c flour
1 c milk
2 tsp lemon juice f 
3 T minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 c frozen peas
Crumble Topping:
2 c  flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
6 Tb unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1. Bring chicken and broth to simmer in COVERED Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until
chicken is just done, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Reserve broth. Do not wash Dutch
oven. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, heat oven to 450.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in large bowl.
Sprinkle butter pieces over top of flour. Using a pastry cutter (or fingers) rub butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in Parmesan. Add cream and stir until just combined. Crumble mixture into irregularly shaped pieces ranging from 1/2 to ¾ inch each onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and starting to brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, celery, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. While vegetables are cooking, shred chicken into small bite-size pieces. Transfer cooked
vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
4. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms; COVER and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir in soy sauce and tomato paste. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, mushrooms are well browned, and dark fond begins to form on surface of pan, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with chicken and vegetables. Set aside.
5. Heat butter in empty Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to simmer, scrape pan bottom to loosen browned bits, continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and parsley.
6. Stir chicken-vegetable mixture and peas into sauce. Pour into 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Scatter crumble topping evenly over filling. Bake until filling  bubbling and topping is well browned, 12 to 15 minutes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Freedom and Fun, Good-bye Winter Fun?

   Good-bye winter.  This past Sunday the most delightful sight was viewed in the evening.  The sky was literally filled with various sizes of v-shaped flying forms - the GEESE, the Canada geese were heading north.      Delightful they are when they stay in the sky; not so when they decide to make your pond or a local park their home.


Our horses don't seem to mind the winter. And in fact, witness the sheer joy of their freedom being released after spending the storm cooped up in the barn.

Even the sounds of spring birds were heard this past week.  Maybe it's too early to be the end of winter, but it's not too early to hope.
Fast and easy.  Double the sauce!  Cook's Country recipes are worth having.

Pork Marsala Saute

6 thin-cut boneless pork chops (about ½ inch thick), halved and cut crosswise into ¼ inch pieces
Salt and pepper
¼ cup flour
3 T unsalted butter
8 oz white mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, chopped fine
¾ cup Marsala wine (most use sweet variety)
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp lemon juice 1 T chopped fresh parsley

Pat pork chops with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Dredge pork in 3 T flour, shaking off excess. Melt 2 T butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove and set aside.  Tent plate to keep warm.

To same skillet, melt butter, add mushrooms, onion, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper and cook until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute.  Whisk in Marsala and broth and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Add pork, any accumulated juices, lemon juice, and parsley and simmer until pork is heated through, about 1 minute.  Serve.