Category Archives: arts & crafts

arts & crafts

Recipe: Meyer Vanilla Lemonade

One of the many benefits of living in California is the citrus!!!! Because of this I have a collections of dwarf citrus trees in my front yard. I have several Meyer lemon trees because they are my favorite. Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and mandarin or orange. They are sweeter than your average lemon and have a thinner skin. One of my favorite things to do with these lemons is make lemonade.

Lemonade in my AgHag chalice.

Lemonade in my AgHag chalice.

Meyer-Vanilla Lemonade

6 to 7 Meyer lemons (about one cup of juice, although I prefer one cup running over)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar*
5 cups water, divided
Ice

This smells like sunshine.

This smells like sunshine.

Bring one cup of water and sugar to a boil to make a simple syrup. Remove from heat and cool. Squeeze lemons, making sure to remove the seeds.
Add cooled simple syrup, lemon juice, and water into a pitcher and mix well. Serve over ice and with a lemon slice.

*Vanilla sugar is just sugar that I keep in a jar with a few gutted vanilla beans. It’s lovely for pastries, drinks and baked goods. It has a slight vanilla flavor that really compliments most things. You could add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the lemonade if you are using plain sugar. But I highly recommend getting a jar of vanilla sugar going for your pantry.

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Recipe: The Best Freaking Snack Mix Ever aka “AgHag Chex Mix”

If you are into “clean” eating, low calorie, or unprocessed food, move along, nothing to see here. However, if you are into delicious snack food, that brings you a great sense of joy and happiness, you are in the right place.

Chex mix has always brought me inner food peace. From my Great Aunt Mary’s mix as a child, to the stuff you buy in the store, I have never met a chex mix I didn’t love. Whenever I have felt ill or not hungry, chex mix can usually be counted on to make me feel better. It’s my spirit food animal. If I am ever on death row, this will be requested as part of my last meal.

Oh, chex mix, how I love you.

Oh, chex mix, how I love you.

Lately I have been on a huge Chex Mix kick. I’ve been making about a batch a week. My friends are getting care packages of it. Every time I make it just a whisper different. You see, that is the beauty of making your own chex mix. You can do anything you want! You can add your favorite things! This is currently how I am making my favorite batch.

AgHag Chex Mix

For “The Mix”

3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
2 cups cheese-its
2 cups Bugles
2 cups cheerios (I prefer the store brand actually, it has more nutritional value, read the label!)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup cashews
2 cup pretzels

 For “The Sauce”

1 cube of butter
1/2 cup worcestershire
1/4 cup hot sauce (tapatio, rooster sauce or tabasco sauce work just fine)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 package of ranch mix (keep this separate)

Don't make it all pretty like this, just dump it in a big pile, it makes it easier to mix. I did this purely for a pretty photo.

Don’t make it all pretty like this, just dump it in a big pile, it makes it easier to mix. I did this purely for a pretty photo.

 

1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

2. Melt the butter. Add the next 7 ingredients for the sauce to your melted butter.

3. In a large 9×13 sheet cake pan, mix together all 9 of the cereals, nuts and chips.

4. Toss “the sauce” and “the mix” together until coated. Be gentle, as you don’t want to crush your cereals. After everything is coated, open up your ranch mix and gently sprinkle that over your sheet pan, gently toss again.

Step 4: the dry ranch mix being incorporated. This is an important step, don't skip it!

Step 4: the dry ranch mix being incorporated. This is an important step, don’t skip it!

 

5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.

6. Store in an airtight container, that is if you have any left.

Again, Friends, use this recipe only for good. It has great and powerful juju. It is also perfect for Ranch Days, soccer games, movies, Super Bowls and field trips.

 

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Cold Blue Mountain: NPR, Tiny Desk and World Domination

Cold Blue Mountain by Michelle Camy

Cold Blue Mountain by Michelle Camy

Do you remember last summer when I posted the blog about my friends in the band Cold Blue Mountain? When they made a video and let me cook AND be in it?

So.much.fun. Beef, beer and bikinis!

So.much.fun. Beef, beer and bikinis!

They did it again! You see NPR is having a contest – the winner gets to play in the NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, so CBM took the plunge and entered! Guess what?

NPR even tweeted at Cold Blue Mountain, it was pretty exciting.

NPR even tweeted at Cold Blue Mountain, it was pretty exciting.

They were the first metal entry and actually made it on NPR’s music page! Talk about fame! I mean, I know I am super bias, but I think they should win (if they do win, I am so leaving the ranch to go with them I can watch! (they don’t know that yet, so shhhhhhh)).

The Tiny Desk video:

Even if they don’t win, they are still doing some pretty exciting stuff! They are about to embark on huge tour! They are leaving the safe and warm embrace of Chico, California to share their musical talents with most of the United States. I am so excited for them, but kinda bummed that they are going to be gone so long! I’m going to be lonely.

If you get the chance, I recommend you catch a show! Or at least go hang out with them. Despite this being pretty heavy screaming music, these are pretty much some of the nicest guys ever. Plus I worry about them and will need updates to make sure they are doing well, washing their socks, underwear and beards.

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Apricot Jalapeno Jam

My friend Aaron and I, this year! (We've been friends for like over a decade now!)

My friend Aaron and I, this year! (We’ve been friends for, like, over a decade now!)

Everyone needs a friend like Aaron. Aaron is my friend from college that everyone liked and everyone knew. For some reason, he stayed friends with me and pretty much fulfills my happy place when it comes to food. He works in production agriculture so he hooks this girl up with wonderful things like walnuts, oils, and apricots! I try and keep him elbow deep in jam and jelly – everyone seems happy so far.

Aaron apricots! I spent a good two weeks processing these, it was dreamy!

Aaron apricots! I spent a good two weeks processing these, it was dreamy!

Aaron got me something like 40 pounds of apricots this year. I love apricots, they are sweet little golden nuggets of warm delicious goodness. They made a fabulous jam. And jam I did! I made plain apricot, ginger, vanilla, but the best was apricot jalapeno! Something about sweet and spicy brings me joy. 

Apricot-Jalapeno Jam 

  • 3  cups finely chopped apricots (about 25 medium)
  • ½ cup minced jalapeno
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 3-oz pouch liquid pectin
  • 1/2 tsp butter (optional, it keeps the foam down)
  • 5-3/4 cups sugar

 

Instead of chopping the jalapenos and apricots, I just toss them in my trusty cuisinart.

Instead of chopping the jalapenos and apricots, I just toss them in my trusty cuisinart.

Mix apricots, jalapeno, lemon juice and sugar in large saucepan. Add butter. Bring to a rolling boil, one that cannot be stirred down. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and skim any foam. Place in jars, adjust lids and bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

The best jam I made all summer, hands down. It tastes like summer!

The best jam I made all summer, hands down. It tastes like summer! This makes about 7 half pints.

Serve this jam on cream cheese with wheat thins, or as a marinade on chicken or pork. It’s so good!

Adapted from here.

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Cold Blue Mountain: The Strongest Will

Chico is one of those little towns with a pretty awesome art’s scene. We have music, theater, galleries, famous people – there is a thriving little culture here. Unfortunately, despite my fondest wishes and feeble tries, it is not a culture I am apart of. My talents are more agricultural based. However, I think this has worked to most of our advantages. I often supply various food items for various shows. In fact, I got to cook for this video!

Seriously, you wish you were here.

Seriously, you wish you were here.

My goals for this summer was to swim and fish – regularly. I’ve swam twice and I guess you can say I fished when I used a bucket to scoop out a fish when I was irrigating (I released it back into the creek). It was a busy summer on the Ranch.  But when I heard Cold Blue Mountain was filming a video, I demanded a day off from the cows so I could cook for this video! Plus I knew I could swim. In chlorine. Perfect.

Pay no attention to my rancher's tan. Pay attention to the BEEF!

Pay no attention to my rancher’s tan. Pay attention to the BEEF!

In addition to Brown Ranch Beef, I made potato salad and tomato, onion and cucumber salad from our garden veggies! I also got to bust out some pickles and peppers I canned, and some jam and jelly. I simply love to cook for a crowd. It’s a good challenge. It ended up being a really awesome day! I got to hang out with fun, artistic people, I got to cook and swim!

My favorite picture from the day.

My favorite picture from the day.

Cold Blue Mountain is yet another band Daniel Taylor is a member of, (as you recall he’s posted here before). This band is a whisper more, um…..heavy….than I am used to, which is funny to me because these are some of the nicest, most sensitive dudes I know! Please enjoy this video and thank you, CBM, for letting me be apart of it!

Seriously, they sent handmade thank you cards.

Seriously nicest metal band I know, they sent handmade thank you cards.

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Chokecherry Jelly

A few weeks ago, my Dad was reminiscing with me about family history and family members long dead and gone. I was lucky enough to meet some of these people when I was small. I have some hazy memories of certain encounters. I am constantly trying to strengthen these memories by pestering people who remember more than I do, or connecting by recipes, because taste and smell seem to bring memories galloping back.

I battled beard and mountain lions for these chokecherries! See the broken limbs?  From a bear!

I battled bears and mountain lions for these chokecherries! See the broken limbs? From a bear!

My Dad was telling me about cutting firewood for his Aunties and doing various “chores” for them like picking fruit, killing wild game, etc. Dad mentioned he used to pick a lot of chokecherries and gooseberries for jelly making. Immediately I perked up and demanded to know more.

This is what chokecherries look like.

This is what chokecherries look like.

I had vague memories of riding my horse and picking something for jelly when I was very small. I was little, therefore, super short, and couldn’t reach the fruit. But, like any enterprising young ranch kid, you found ways around that. I can’t remember much about this memory, like what berry, how old I was, or who we were picking them for, but I do remember riding my horse Sequoia.

Some of the biggest bear poo I've ever seen. I had all my cowdogs with me, just in case!

Some of the biggest bear poo I’ve ever seen. I had all my cowdogs with me, just in case!

I spent so much time on our mountain ranch this summer I was unable to devote as much time to my passions of gardening and canning. However when Dad taught me what a chokecherry bush looked like, I knew I had the opportunity to make up for lost canning time! During the middle of the afternoon, when it was too hot to do much else, I picked chokecherries, lots and lots.

Seriously, I went overboard. Typical.

Seriously, I went overboard. Typical.

 

Chokecherry Jelly

  • 3 cups chokecherry juice
  • 6 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 box (2 pouches) liquid pectin
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter (to prevent foaming)

Pour juice, sugar and butter into large heavy saucepan and stir to mix. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Bring to a full, rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir and skim off foam.  Add almond extract. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal with two-piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

This jelly is delicious. The almond extract really adds a lovely layer of flavor. Since I picked so many chokecherries I am attempting to make wine. Stay tuned as I am just a few more weeks from trying it, and if it’s good, I’ll show you how I did it!

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Honey Fig Jam

As you know, we have fig trees. However picking those figs is a whole other story. Between the deer, birds, my pig, and our neighbor Pete, it’s tough to get a good crop. However this year I persevered and picked enough to make jam. But not any jam, this jam is pure Table Mountain Ranch. It uses both ranch fruit and ranch honey, a marriage made in heaven!

This is what a mission fig tree looks like.

This is what a mission fig tree looks like.

Honey Fig Jam

  • 4 cups roughly chopped fresh figs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package pectin
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
Washed, stemmed, and chopped figs.

Washed, stemmed, and chopped figs.

Wash and de-stem your figs. Chop finely. Add the figs, lemon juice, and water in a large saucepan. Add pectin and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring often.

Cooked figs.

Cooked figs.

When the mixture has reached a full roiling boil, add the sugar and honey.

Sweet.

Sweet.

Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Skim foam, and ladle into processed jars leave 1/4 inch headspace. Process for in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This is delicious, I swear!

This is delicious, I swear!

 

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Zucchini Pickles

http://www.fix.com/blog/national-zucchini-day/

In honor of “sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch” night, I thought this would be a good time to share with you my latest new favorite thing: zucchini pickles. I know, I know, at this point in the summer you are tired of squash. I was too, until I tried these!

Neighbor Pete told me his Mom used to make pickles out of zucchini and they were delicious. I was hesitant to say the least. But since he gave me several pounds of zucchini and a couple of onions from his garden, I decided to at least try!

Pete's garden zucchini

Pete’s garden zucchini

Guess what? They were amazing. I couldn’t even tell they were zucchini pickles, they tasted and had the texture of normal cucumber pickles! If you have a bunch of extra zucchini (who doesn’t, amirite?) I highly recommend you give these a go!

Lucas Family Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe

  • 1 gallon sliced zucchini
  • 2 big onions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt
  • 1 quart vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
Soaking in salt ice is an important step, don't skip it.

Soaking in salt ice is an important step, don’t skip it.

Soak the zucchini, onions, and salt in an ice water bath for two and half hours. Rinse in cold water.

Invest in a cheap mandoline, it is worth it for the beautiful, uniform slices and not stitches!

Invest in a cheap mandoline, it is worth it for the beautiful, uniform slices and not stitches!

Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil. I let it boil about 5 minutes. Put about half of the rinsed zucchini and onions in the pickling mixture to scald. Then place in sterilized, hot jars. Do the same with the rest of the zucchini and onions, making sure to pack them tightly and to remove air bubbles.

Your pickling liquid.

Your pickling liquid.

 Adjust your lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Glorious, glorious bread and butter pickles!

Glorious, glorious bread and butter pickles!

Let them “pickle” for about two weeks to really get the full effect. Also if you are a fan of spice, add some peppers in there! I’ve been adding jalapenos into some jars and it makes the pickles even better!

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Salt Cured Egg Yolks

Like the majority of Americans, I have a Facebook page. As most of us know, Facebook offers groups you can join. There are groups for everything, I belong to everything from teacup pigs owners groups to stuff your own sausage groups.  One of my favorites these days is The Cult of Pre-Pasteurian Preservation and Food Preparation, moderated by Ken Albala.

A turkey egg.

A turkey egg.

 

A few months back someone in the group was talking about salt cured eggs and how delicious they were. I decided I needed to try them!

Aren't they pretty?

Aren’t they pretty?

I just happened to have a dozen free-range, red bourbon, turkey eggs that were begging for me to use them. I also had some black truffle salt, itching to be used on eggs! Match made in heaven.*

Egg yolks buried in delicious truffle salt.

Egg yolks buried in delicious truffle salt.

I buried the yolks in a layer of black truffle salt, then a layer of regular sea salt. I left this alone, covered, in my refrigerator for two weeks.

ALmost cured yolks.

Almost cured yolks.

After the two weeks were up, I knocked as much salt off as I could, wrapped the yolks in cheesecloth and hung them in my fridge for another week.

All done!

All done!

I had been dying to try these for months at this point and finally got the chance on a green salad. You literally must use a cheese grater to use these eggs, but it is worth it! The eggs could also be served over pasta and other vegetables.

So, so, so good.

So, so, so good.

Once your egg yolks are cured, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a month.

*Also you can use regular chicken eggs and salt. I was just being extra fancy.

 

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Giveaway: “Vintage” Poster

I love a good giveaway! Especially when it means I get something!

I had a nail in one of the tires on my truck, so while waiting for the nice people over at Les Schwab to fix it for me, I accidentally did some shopping.

I found the coolest posters! I had to buy them! Since I don’t have room in my house for all three, I’m doing a giveaway!!! Two of these are going to be adorable framed in my office, one is going to be adorable somewhere in your home!

This giveaway is for one of these posters! You pick!

 

Cows!

Cows!

OR

Canning!

Canning!

OR

Cameras!

Cameras!

 

I will select a winner next Tuesday, July 10, 2014, using random.org. Just leave me a comment below!!

Good luck!

 

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