The Dallas Farmer’s Market

Sierra and Jonathan

Yesterday was a fun family outing.  The kids love to go to the Dallas Farmer’s Market.  It is such a paradox to me that these country kids like to go in to “the big city” and go to the Farmer’s Market.  But it is fun.  If you haven’t ever gone to the Dallas Farmer’s Market you should.  This place holds a lot of fond memories for me and my cousins and my family as our family was once one of the farmers setting up under the sheds offering the fruit of our labor to those that did not have the privilege of growing their own food.  Perhaps this is why my kids and myself are drawn to the market- it is in our DNA.  My great-grand parents and several of my aunts and uncles were truck farmers.

We enjoy walking around the four huge sheds where local farmers, growers and wholesalers bring all the produce.  In recent years, the market has made some changes and there is one shed that is designated for only local farmers and Texas growers.  This really helps if you are trying to buy from local farmers to help sustain our local food shed.  Which, of course, we are.  We were able to get heirloom tomatoes, pie pumpkins, onions, and an Apple Gourd from one farmer grown by him and his wife.  I guess that is what makes it so fun!

A chili cheese dog!

Then we had lunch in the open air.  Jonathan managed to eat a very large and messy chili cheese dog without getting any on him-AMAZING!  The food was good and the laughter was even better.  Tony got nailed by a bird (just on his leg and just a little bird) but none the less, Sierra and Jonathan thought that was too funny.  We of course had to change tables because Tony could not stand the thought of something hitting his food.  I can’t say I blame him.  For desert, Tony and Sierra had to buy fudge and Jonathan had some gummy frogs.  I was full and the sweets did not appeal to me.  However, if the pie folks had still been there I would have had to get a piece of chocolate pie.

Once we wrapped up our produce purchasing, we headed to the mother store- Half Price Books on Northwest Hwy.  Nothing makes me and the other bookworms that I have birth to happier than being in that store.  Sierra had some extra money and she sold some books that she had outgrown.  Not only did I find a few books on herbs and propagation for me, I was able to make a dent in the Christmas list.

A hamburger and fries.

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Simple and Easy Pie Crust

Pie crusts have become an item in the kitchen that so many people are afraid to make for themselves.  There has been a lot of talk of how hard a pie crust is to make.  All this talk of difficulty has most people eating those nasty things that come pre-made and labeled as pie crust.  That is such a shame because pie crust are not that hard if you have a few tips with which to start.

A pie crust has just a few ingredients and the instructions are simple.  I do believe that most people have trouble because they are trying to measure exactly.  The thing is when you are doing pastry, it has as much to do with the “feel” of the dough as the measurements.  The flour, salt, and Crisco (or butter) are exact measurements, but the water added is where the “feel” comes in to play.  It may seem funny, but the weather plays a huge role in pastry making.  Things like humidity in the air will affect how much water you add to the flour mixture.  So, if the recipe says “add 2 tablespoons” know that on any given day that might mean a little more or a little less.  You add water until the dough comes together and forms a ball- that simple.  Add a little at first and then add more as you need to, you can always add more water, but you can’t take it back.

Recipe:

2 cups flour

1/2  tsp salt

3/4 cup  unsalted butter

7  tablespoons water- added 2 tblsp at a time- more or less

Mix flour and salt together in mixing bowl

Now add the butter and “cut it in”. This means you use a pastry blender, fork, or two knives and keep mashing and cutting the butter until it is little pieces, about the size of a pea, and the mixture is crumbly.

see the larger chunks, this is the butter in little pieces. Once you get to this, stop cutting in

Now, you add the water.  Start with 2 tablespoons and stir with a fork.  Then add 2 more tablespoons of water.  You will see the dough start to form large chunks.  Add more water until the dough sticks together and makes a “ball”.  This ball will not be perfectly round.

See how all the dough is stuck together? this is the ball

 

Once you are at this stage, reach into the bowl, take the ball and shape it just a bit and then divide it in half.  Then take each half and round out the balls. Since the dough will be a little tacky to the touch, get a little flour on your hands.

this is half the dough shaped in a ball

 

Now, flatten out the ball and start to make the crust.

pat and flatten the ball into a flat circle

 

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Once the dough is larger by about and inch than the pie plate you are cooking in, the crust is big enough.

Get a little flour on the rolling pin so the dough won’t stick

This pie is for a dinner potpie and I like to use a cast iron skillet for those.

Getting the dough off the rolling surface can be a little tricky- if you slide one hand under and then flip it over your top hand, then slide the bottom hand under farther and keeping working it that way, the dough comes up easy without ripping.

slide the hand under and flip it over the top hand

repeat the step

We have lift off! Once you do that step about 4 times the crust is off the work surface.

Now place the crust into you pie plate or deep dish.  The bottom is done.  What kind of pie you are doing determines if you will need a top crust.  If you do, once the pie shell is filled, repeat the rolling out steps with the second ball of dough and lay it on top.  Trim what hangs over and press the sides together.

There you have it!  Pie crust made at home are SO much better.  Don’t be discouraged if you have to make a few to really get it down, nothing worth doing is easy the first time.

 

Old Man Winter is Knocking At Our Door

Here in Texas we have been having some very nice weather with highs in the upper 70’s and lower 80’s, however a cold front has been moving through.  Now the daytime highs are not such a big deal, the big deal for me and every other gardener is the overnight low.  If it drops below 32′, much of our growing season is done.  So, with the weathermen telling us that a freeze was on the way we were busy little ants getting all the harvest in that we could.

What a beautiful sight! I am so proud when I pick organic veggies from our own garden.

Peppers and Eggplants and Tomatoes and all the other veggies in the garden will continue to produce in the cool weather as long as there is not a freeze.  Once the freeze hits they are done.  The Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans have been growing on my garden fence all spring, summer, and now fall.  I was beginning to wonder if I was going to get any beans because they never bloomed.  Then about a month ago, blossoms came and now beans.  I did get a nice harvest on Sunday and those lovely beans are now shelled and in my fridge waiting to be cooked up with a little ham and bacon drippings- ohh so good!  Even though I did get a lot of beans there are still so many baby beans out there that I am hoping for old man winter to stay away another few weeks.  It is not uncommon for us in East Texas to not have a freeze until December.  During the heat of the summer when it is 95′ in May and June then hitting 100’s for weeks I always ask myself “Why do I live here?”  Then the weather cools down and I can pretty much garden all winter long because our ground never freezes and then I think “I love this climate!”

The Fish Pepper Plants (2) really produced all summer even in the heat and have given me a beautiful bounty of hot peppers.

Citronella is one herb that dies out in the winter. This plant is huge and I had to harvest it before the frost killed it.

This is the plant after. It looks so sad. However, this herb will be dried and I will make lots of wonderful mosquito repellant.

Not only did we need to harvest all the herbs that would not make it through a freeze- and there are only just a few that

will not over-winter- but all the potted plants such as Aloe Vera, Geraniums, and Bouganvilla had to be moved into the greenhouse.  All the work was worth it.  Even though as I write this, it looks like we have been spared a few more weeks.  Nothing outside looks bit by a freeze.  I am so grateful.

Chicken Noodle Soup

The last thing I think that anyone wants to be is sick.  The only worst thing about being sick is being away from home- sick.  I guess that is part of what makes a house a home- what you can expect when you are sick.  In our house, certain foods are expected and thought to make everything better.  These are true comfort foods.  Of course, in our home you can also expect to  be given some nasty tasting herbal concoctions along with some not so nasty herbal teas with honey.  I do not believe that medicine should  be sugared up to taste good.  Basically there is one good reason for not having the medicine taste good- the kids only tell me they are sick when they really are!  Added to that is the fact that if they go in the kitchen and get it out without being told- then I know we are really dealing with an illness.  But more on the medicine latter.

When Cheyenne was sick, her favorite thing was Potato Soup.  These other three cuties like Chicken Noodle Soup.    This past week, all of the children still living in our home and myself had a bout with some germ that made us run a low fever, cough, sneeze, and have a runny nose while at the same time being unable to breath due to congestion- I still don’t know how this is possible.  Anyway, it is a rare occasion for us all to go down but from what I have heard, our family has not been alone with the battle of the sickness.  So given that fact that this is the time of the year for folks to battle illness, I thought it would be a good time to post this recipe for chicken noodle soup.  It is super easy and very healthy.  Now, this soup is good anytime not just when you are sick.

Chicken Noodle Soup- guaranteed to make you feel better!

Chicken Noodle Soup

3- 14 oz cans of chicken broth *

2- carrots coarsely chopped

1- celery stalk coarsely chopped

1-small onion finely chopped

1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms (optional)

5- cloves of garlic minced

salt and pepper to taste

1- tablespoon of chopped sage**

1-tablespoon of thyme**

1- tablespoon of parsley**

1-tablespoon of real butter

1- cup of chopped chicken or turkey***

80z of egg noodles (you can use other pasta if you want to.)

 

*-broth made at home from boiling a chicken and reserving the broth will be healthier and better for you.  But, canned is fine.

**- fresh herbs from your garden are the best, dried is good, especially if you dried them yourself.

***- you can boil a chicken or turkey pull the meat from the bone and freeze the chopped meat in smaller portions for a quick meal.  Then, freeze the broth for your own chicken broth.

In a large dutch oven or medium stock pot, melt butter over medium heat and add onion, carrots, & celery.  Cook until onion is clear and just starting to caramelize.  About 10 minutes.

Add broth and 2 cans worth of water, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, salt and pepper, and chicken or turkey

Bring to a boil, cover and boil for about 20 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Add egg noodles and boil until noodles are tender.  Done.

Enjoy!

 

What are the foods that your family like when they are sick?