Sunday, February 9, 2020

Spring Is Springing!!



Image result for photo of spring with bird


Well, now that winter's chilly veil is wearing thin, and the robins are showing their red breasts for the first time this year, can finally feel spring coming. This is a time of year that really makes me feel alive. The trees are still bare, but new life is seeping into nature.




Muenster is a great place to be in the spring. The Germans have a rich tradition of festivals. Most people are familiar with fall's Oktoberfest celebrations, being almost as culturally ubiquitous as St. Patrick's Day is with the Irish! The spring, however, is rich with its own set of activities.


In the coming months we look forward to Spring's crown jewel, Germanfest in April, but the last few years have added some very nice stones to the setting with two large crawfish boils, that bring the surrounding communities and the metroplex together with amazing bands and festivities. Alongside with the heavily catholic population here, meatless Fridays mean that I get to look forward to weekly fish fries held by the volunteer fire departments surrounding us and the Knights of Columbus. It is such a fun time to get together with friends I have not seen in too long, and make new ones I didn't know I'd missed in the first place!

I mentioned the crawfish boils before, and I don't want them to be understated. The last few years have seen these fledgling operations grow from local fundraisers into big time festivals! The first, the Sacred Heart School fundraiser opens the season and they are bringing a band I recently fell in love with, Prophets and Outlaws. Im not personally a huge fan of the Texas country music, as my boys call it, having grown up more with a taste for Billy Joel and Naked Eyes (not to date myself), but this one caught my ear. My oldest son played them nonstop one afternoon while he was working on his old truck with Brad, and got hooked. When they announced the lineup included them, I immediately bought us some tickets.

The other big Crawfish boil, the Muenster Volunteer Fire Department Annual Mudbug Bash is a little more raucous an occasion. This one is a bit bigger an event that I may not personally attend, but all my kids and apparently a couple of cousins are coming to town for this year. The announced headliner is the Toadies, who I remember from the blaring stereos of my kids in high school, but never really personally was too attached to. There are a few other bands playing that are 80's hair rock style from what I can tell. Im sure it will be fun, but I think I will just look forward to seeing the kids enjoy this one!

photo



So since Punxsutawney Phil saw no shadow this year, let spring be sprung and as they say in New Orleans, Les bon temps rouler!




Friday, January 24, 2020

Fall or Christmas Outdoor Decorating with Nature


Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Some would say I go "a little crazy".




Having lived all over the world as a youngster, I have seen Christmas decorating in all cultures and all walks of life.



People mistakenly believe they need to go out and spend a great deal of money to achieve amazing eye popping decor.



Actually, nature provides some of the best decor for you!

Some hints on how to get fresh greenery...  If you do not live in an area that has a variety of greenery, where you may go out and fresh cut, then stop by your local tree lot.  When the tree lots cut off the bottom of the Christmas tree for customers, they are happy for you to collect the branches.  You would be surprised how many branches and varieties of greenery you are able to collect.  They just throw that away.







We put all delicate plants away before the first freeze. We then fill our pots with a variety of cuttings, and evergreen branches such as Holly, Nandina, Pyracantha, Fir, Pine, Cedar, Rosemary, etc, be creative (you may need to replace them after a month -but hey- they are free).





As the months grow cooler, many bushes produce beautiful and vibrant berries. Look around your yard or neighborhood and gather many of these.
Take your empty pot or urn and make sure you have some soil in them (helps prevent them from blowing over and holds water). These cuttings are still alive and will absorb the water in the soil and stay fresh longer (feel free to water it if you live in a dry climate).


In the fall, we place a variety of our leftover veggies from the garden, such as corn, pumpkin, squash, okra (we let okra and squash get large and tough to use as decor), in and around the pots. 


When the Christmas Season is upon us, we take away the fall veggies and add Winter flair.


Make a garland of cheap plastic Christmas balls.  Collect, fun shaped sticks, and branches that have lost their leaves.  I often spray them gold, red, silver or leave natural to create a beautiful tall accent in pots.


Our flowers do not go back out into nature until March, so we see our Christmas decor morph into "Winter Decor".  We remove the balls and other obvious Christmas decor, refresh the greenery in the pots so they look fresh, and we continue to have a Winter theme.
I have found that after you have used nature for your decor, and you have made your first pot, you will begin to notice and spot beautiful things to decorate your outdoors with!  

I have been known to stop the car and jump out and cut a unique evergreen from the side of the road (be careful to respect private property).


Be sure and use some of your fresh greenery indoors to bring in that wonderful winter scent and creative beautiful garlands or swags.

Have fun and do not limit your imagination!








Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Three Sisters Planting Method

European settlers arrived in America in the early 1600s, American Indians had been growing the “three sisters” for over three hundred years, by this point.
The vegetables sustained the Native Americans existence along with meat and nuts
In an Indian folklore,  the plants were a gift from the gods, always to be grown together, eaten together, and celebrated together.



Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting. 
  • As the eldest sister,  the corn offers the beans needed support and a climbing tower.
  • The beans, the caring sister, pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three. 
  • As the beans grow through the squash vines and up the cornstalks toward the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.
  • The large leaves of the squash protects the three plants by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeps it cooler, moist and prevents weeds.
  • The prickly squash leaves also deter pests.
Together, the three sisters create sustainable soil fertility as they provide you a healthy diet.

Wonderful!


We plant the corn in early May (after last frost). Soak the seeds for 4 hours before planting in a slight hill or elevated row and keep the soil moist

When the corn plants are 6" tall we plant squash, pumpkin or zucchini between every other corn.

Then plant pole beans in the skipped spaces. We plant this in long rows, many forms of this technique suggest circles or a square pattern. We find the circle/square is harder to maintain and weed. The row method allows access on both sides to pick vegetables and weed.




Note that this style of planting should be repeated each year as the nitrogen converted by the beans, will not be left till the plants are nearly mature and they have broken down.  You may need to use organic fertilizer the first year.


One little trick Brad loves to do is as the watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin vines are dying, he plants his seeds for snow peas in the ground.  The vines add a bit of warmth and protection to the young plants.  While they are about 6 in long and have not spread- he cuts the summer plants away and lifts then off the new peas.


Enjoy and love you garden!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Pear Harvest Time & Pear Tart Time

One of our largest crops would be our Pear harvest.  We pick nearly 500lbs of pears each fall.

Pear has become such a versatile fruit for us.  It gives us so many uses.



We keep about 50 lbs in a cool dry dark location sprinkled with dry lime.  We will be able to use the fresh pear in salads, desserts and breakfast fruit for nearly 4 months.

The remaining 450 lbs, we peel, core and freeze in bags of 16 pears each.  This gives me food to use for the winter months when the garden is far more selective in what it will produce.  Freezing food in a quality manner is a good way to preserve foods.






We also dry about 50lbs as well, that we serve on our Charcuterie trays.  Typically we dry, pear, fig,  and cantaloupe each year for the Charcuterie Trays.









One of my main uses for pear is to get a large 8-gallon pot and place the frozen pears (96) on a very low stove for 6 hours.  I will often add a bit of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg near the end.  I pour off the liquid (which is usually about 2 gallon) for our pear juice to serve with breakfast.  Then I use my immersible blender and emulsify the pears.  I use this puree for charcuterie pear butter, for fruit kolaches, I add it to make my curried pear vinegarette and I
use it in some of my fruit bread.






French Country Tarte

Ingredients

Crust:
1/2 cup whole-grain flour or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground oats
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter or coconut oil
2 tablespoons yogurt
3 table of spoons ice water
Filling:
4 medium pears
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1T Honey
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 C good quality ricotta mixed w/ 1 C powdered sugar
Glaze:
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon boiling water

Directions

  1. Crust: whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Add the butter - cut the butter into the flour mixture until you get a pea size course texture. Combine the yogurt and ice water. Using a fork, gradually mix the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture. Pat the dough into a 5-inch round and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 25 min.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and prepare the filling. Peel the pears, core them and cut into 1/4-inch slices ( use a mandolin if you have it). In a large bowl toss the pear slices with the lemon juice. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, brown sugar, nutmeg, honey, and cinnamon and toss until the pears are evenly coated. Set aside.
  3. Place the dough in the bottom of a tart pan.  Press chilled dough to the edges and up the pan sides.  If the dough breaks - patch it up with your fingers.
  4. spread the ricotta mixture on the bottom of the pan.  Arrange the pears in a fan effect around the top to form a pattern.
  5. Bake the tart for 15 minutes at 425, and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, keeping the tart in the oven all the while, and bake for another 40 minutes, until the pears are tender and the crust is golden brown.
  6. In a small bowl stir together the honey and boiling water to make a glaze. When the tart is done remove it from the oven and brush the honey glaze all over the top of the fruit and crust. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Cut into 8 wedges and serve warm or room temperature with vanilla ice-cream or fresh whipped cream.



Saturday, June 22, 2019

Cold Cocktail Time By the Pool!


    Pool time   -   Fun time!    


This time of year, nothing says summer better than easing back into a chaise lounge, with a cold delicious cocktail in your hand. As you close your eyes and slowly melt into the cushion with the trickling sound of water cascading from the pool fountain, you begin to feel the slow yet soothing waves of relaxation take over.


Wait - let's add the cocktail!

Daniel- our favorite Cocktail maker and son, has given us an amazing Craft Margarita, which he will be showcasing for us at our wild and crazy Fourth of July bash!


  Daniels Secret Craft Margarita Recipe:      


Squeeze 2 small or 1 large lime, & 1/4 orange into shaker. Drop squeezed orange and 1/8 cut of squeezed lime into skaker

1.5 oz tequila 
.75 oz grand marnier (or orange liquor of choice)
3 Finely cut slices of fresh jalapeno 
If you prefer sweeter taste, add spoonful of agave nectar 
Shake hard, add ice, shake again

Garnish with salt mixed with cayenne pepper, garlic powder, chili powder


Amazing!!!



    My Captain  Morgan  Rum  Punch     


2 OZ CAPTAIN MORGAN COCONUT RUM
2 OZ ORANGE JUICE
2 OZ RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT JUICE (do not use canned)
1 OZ CRANBERRY JUICE
squeeze of lemon
Tsp honey

HOW TO MAKE:

1. COMBINE ALL INGREDIENTS INCLUDING CAPTAIN MORGAN COCONUT RUM IN A PITCHER AND STIR. 



     Marcia's Midori   Splash!     

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Midori 
  • 1-ounce vodka 
  • 1-ounce coconut rum
  • 3 ounces of orange juice 
  • 2 ounces ginger ale 

Instructions

  1. Shake all the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker. 
  2. Pour over ice into a highball glass. 
  3. Garnish with melon balls, and serve.


Do Not Drink and Drive.  Stay at Elm Creek Maonr!  Enjoy Your Summer!!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Spring Always Brings Lots of Growth and Births At the Manor

As a Fully Farm to Table Inn, renewal is a necessary and rewarding necessity.

Master Chef, Marcia creates all of our artisan cheeses from our own Goats milk.  Typically we have 2-3 dairy goats at all times.  With this number of lady goats, we receive about 1 1/2 - 2 Gallons a day.  Half of our milk goes into Chevre and the other half is used to create our hard cheeses ( Gouda, Cheddar, Asiago, Gorgonzola, etc).
This year we have 8 little adorable kids, that bound around the pastures and show off to our guests.




Many of our egg hens are naturally broody and we encourage this natural method of hatching chicks.  We do not use heaters or artificial methods to hatch our chics.  Typically in one year, we have 7-9 hens that will hatch out approx 70-90 egg laying chickens.  We keep the younger hens and allow these hens to lay for 2 years. After that time we use them as meat for our family, but not guests, as they are larger and not as tender as our younger meat chickens, we use for the guest's entrees.



We maintain an Aquaponic greenhouse year round and plant traditionally as well.  Our Spring/Summer gardens are the big suppliers for our fruit and vegetables. The volume of fruits and vegetables that are gathered from this garden provides us with not only our fresh supplies to feed our guests amazing breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but allows us to pickle many of the vegetables that we use for our Charcuterie trays. We also dry many of the fruits and vegetables to use throughout the Fall/Winter when the Fall/Winter garden is not offering the variety we are Blessed with, in the Summer.  

We also practice a very traditional and ancient farming method called "three sisters" 

 When the corn is 6 inches tall, beans and squash are planted around the corn, alternating between the two kinds of seeds. This agricultural knowledge has been used for 5,000–6,500 years.  

The three crops benefit from each other. The corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a "living mulch", creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests that bother the corn and beans. Nature working to help nature in a healthy and organic ecosystem. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Wild Foraging

Dandelion
One of my favorite times of year is Spring. As Brad is an Organic Farmer and me, a Master Chef, we are always looking for unique and lovely foods to enhance and highlight the meals we prepare for guests. Mother Nature is the best artist in the world and is very creative; growing unique, strange and wonderful things that are delicious and edible. These little gems are able to be found through “Wild Foraging”. Foraging for wild food is a great way to experience the natural world and connect with something ancient and primal within ourselves. Each spring and summer you can find us out foraging for amazing foods such as our coveted Morel Mushrooms, Curley dock, Lady Fern Fiddleheads, Ramps/wild leek, Dandelion Flowers, Chickweed, Clover, Wildbriar Shoots and
Chickory
Watercress.  

I have included some photos to see how pretty 
and fresh these wild things can be.


Prickly Pear

Several Rules apply to wild foraging.  

1)Never consume wild food unless you are 100% sure of its identification. 

2)Know the look-alike plants (some look alike are poisonous).



3)Know the season to pick each plant,  

4) Don't harvest all the plants, leave some to grow wild, so they go to seed and replenish for next year, prepare your wild things correctly.  

5)Never pick in places subjected to pollution

6) Go slowly try a new plant in small bits.

7) Avoid all plants with white berries

8) Try to avoid plants with white sap (some exceptions- Dandelion, Fig,  Thistle






Wild Mustang Grape
Foraging is a wonderful thing to learn for oneself and to teach others to respect nature and learn about the environment.