Monday, October 5, 2015

On the Mountain

We have a campsite on top of one of the mountains on our property.  It is about a mile and a quarter hike up to it. 
 The twins love the new backpacks they got for their birthday.  Pierce is still using one of Paul's, but he is hoping to get a kid sized backpack for his birthday later this month.
 The hike up to the top is really steep.  The boys have been hiking up there as long as they can remember, though, so they don't complain.
 There are a couple of hammocks for hiking recovery, and plenty of trees for climbing, if you don't feel tired.

We have two spots at the top for cooking.  This is the spot we use if it is very dry or windy, because the big rock over the fire pit offers added protection.  Years ago Paul built several benches to go around the fire pits.  There was a time when the benches had signatures burned into them from people who had visited our campsite, but these faded with time.

There is also a horse shoe pit.  Paul beats me at horse shoes every single time.  This time, I lost 15/10.

Bo came up to the campsite but this is a rare siting.  Usually he's running all over the place nonstop, chasing birds.

No campout is complete until there are smores over the fire.  Sadly, we forgot to bring up the chocolate this time, but marshmallows with graham crackers are still tasty. 
Readers, do you enjoy camping out?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Turkey Goulash with Mashed Potatoes

I made a turkey goulash recipe recently that turned out pretty well.  Relying on a number of pantry ingredients, it is modified from a Taste of Home recipe.

1 lb. ground turkey
1 package (16 oz.) frozen mixed veggies
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 cup water
1 chopped onion
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. pepper

Cook turkey in large skillet, drain.  Add veggies, soups, water, onion, Worcestershire sauce, seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Serve over mashed potatoes.  You could use instant, or you could make yours from scratch.  I always make mine from scratch by boiling and draining a bunch of red potatoes, then mixing them with cream cheese, sour cream, butter, and garlic salt.  I don't measure - I just estimate and taste.  Delicious!

Readers, do you always use recipes, or do you wing it with some things?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Little History

At the top of one of our pastures, just along the edge of the woods, sits an old piece of farm equipment.
 You could almost miss it walking by; it's almost sunk completely down into the earth.
I'm always pleased to see it, like an old friend, on occasions where I walk by.  I can't help but wonder about the farmer that used to perch on that metal seat, steering his horses.  What did he plant?  And where?  If only rusty farm equipment could talk!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cushaw Squash Bread Recipe

Cushaw squash makes an excellent pumpkin style bread.  My boys adore it.  And since Cort recently came up with an intolerance to pumpkin, it is a good alternative. 

2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups pureed cushaw squash
3 cups flour
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350*.  Mix together sugar and oil.  Add eggs and squash and mix well.  Add dry ingredients, mix.  Pour into greased and floured bread pans.  Bake 80 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool slightly before turning out.

Don't have a cushaw squash handy?  Try substituting pumpkin.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Why You Should Have an Emergency Car Kit

One of the things I worked on this summer was putting together an emergency car kit.  You may remember that time we got stranded on a mountain with no cell phone reception this past spring.  There have been other incidents too.  Like the time I had to drive home from Northern Virginia in a snowstorm (a drive that would normally take 4 hours and ended up taking 8) only to have to have a neighbor come pick me up by four wheeler to get me over the mountain.  And of course there have been times where the kids have needed spare clothes (from getting carsick or from jumping in a creek somewhere).  To be honest, I should've put together an emergency kit ages ago.

My car has a handy dandy secret compartment that can store all sorts of things.  I've filled it up with supplies. 
I have changes of clothes, rain ponchos, emergency blankets, flashlights with extra batteries, basic tools, paper towels and towels, water purifiers, snacks (look for shelf stable snacks like meal replacement survival bars and Vienna sausages that are well packaged - you don't want mice getting into your car - I have been there and done that, too).  I have firestarter and contact lenses and a spare pair of glasses.  I also keep a collapsible backpack in case we have to hike somewhere and carry supplies.  And then I have a lot of medical supplies.  Last summer Paul had a huge wipeout on his mountain bike.  He was bleeding all over the place and didn't have a single bandaid or bandage in his car.  So guess what he got for our wedding anniversary?  His own emergency car kit - next time he'll be able to bandage himself up (although I hope there isn't a next time, for his sake!).

When you put this together, consider the needs of your family.  If you're active, like us, you'll want things like sunscreen and bug spray and moleskin for blisters.  These are practical items you may use regularly (just remember to replace them for next time).  I also keep a six pack of bottled water.  I know that you aren't supposed to keep bottled water in a car because of BPA concerns, but in a situation where your car broke down and it was 90 degrees and you had to hike down a mountain, that bottled water will be very useful. 

Readers, do you keep some emergency supplies in your car? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spiced Pumpkin Hummus

I love to make my own hummus.  It's a healthy snack, and I have fun creating different flavors. The boys enjoy it, and it is lunchbox friendly. It also makes wonderful wraps!  Recently I whipped up a batch of spiced pumpkin hummus.  This came from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine.

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. tahini
2 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. salt
1 15 oz. can cannellini or other white beans (I used chickpeas), rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves

Place ingredients in food processor, process until smooth.  Serve with crackers, chips, or baby carrots.

Next time I want to try this using some blue hubbard squash!  Readers, do you have a favorite brand or flavor of hummus?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Growing Cushaw Squash

Last Spring I was listening to an organic gardening podcast and heard that the cushaw squash makes wonderful pumpkin pies, and, even better, is resistant to squash bugs.  You all know all about my squash bug woes by now.  I immediately ordered some seeds.  I planted just one.  Turns out, that was enough.  True to form, the 5 million squash bugs in my garden left it alone.

Here is one of my five cushaw squashes:
The cushaw squash wasn't as difficult to prep as the blue hubbard or a pumpkin would be.  It is much softer skinned.  I chopped it into big pieces and roasted it at 375 for 40 minutes.  Then I scooped out the flesh and any seeds I didn't get the first go round. 

From this one squash, I made a soup in the crockpot (we all concluded that butternut makes a better soup - the cushaw squash had a slightly tart taste in soup format).  I also made a couple of loaves of 'pumpkin' bread (recipe coming soon) and a really delicious pumpkin/apple hybrid pie, using apples from our tree.
The podcast I listened to said that all gardens in Appalachia used to grow cushaw, but for some reason people aren't growing them anymore, except as an ornamental gourd.  Which is a shame, as they have a wonderful flavor for sweets.  Readers, have you ever had a cushaw squash?