Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Our middle son, Olaf, is an attorney up in Minnesota don’t ya know. He spent a semester of his undergrad program in Germany and stayed there for the summer months working for a German law firm. While in school over there he learned that if he wanted a second helping of sausage at a meal he had to eat his vegetables. More often than not the vegetable was cabbage. That’s why he loves cabbage and other veggies in the same family like Brussels Sprouts. If you are not a Brussels Sprouts fan like Olaf and his wife Olga try this recipe. It’s not only easy to prepare but healthier and more tasty than steamed sprouts.

CRISPY BRUSSELS SPROUTS

1 lb. fresh Brussels Sprouts
3 to 4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Trim tough ends off Brussels Sprouts and cut into halves. Place in a large bowl or zip top plastic bag. Add remaining ingredients. Toss to coat Brussels Sprouts well.
3. Place Brussels Sprouts cut side down, onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, flipping half way through the baking time. Edges will be browned or blackened. Keep warm until ready to serve. Serves 4.

Keep your fork.

My Kingdom for a Jug

Firearms deer season ended today and I was lucky enough to harvest a doe this afternoon. We slipped into town mid-morning and there were multiple hunters’ vehicles parked in every pull off along the way. To say the woods were full of hunters would be an understatement. This has been the case for the last four days with people having time off because of Thanksgiving.

I got up extra early Wednesday morning as they say you have to be in your deer stand way before daybreak. It was probably a good thing I did as the snow was coming down like it did back in South Dakota. I usually sit in my tree stand down by the garden but Abram, a retired car salesman from Woodbridge and part-timer up here, has been walking into the woods right behind my stand and has spooked everything in the opposite direction. I knew I would have to find a tree that had a good branch or crotch where I could sit and watch a different trail. I slipped into my hunting gear, minus my safety harness, put on my heavier jacket and left the house.  I later wished I had put on my safety harness as I darn neared fell out of a tree.

I found such a tree next to a wet run (that’s a creek to you mid-westerners) between the house and the river where it curves back to the north. I’ve been cutting wood in that general direction so had a decent path to follow for a ways. The rest was through raspberry and blackberry brambles and was really hard going. The little flashlight I take with me is not much use but I don’t want to alert the deer to my presence. The brambles snagged my camo and pulled my blaze orange cap off a couple of times. My five buckles helped keep some of the snow off my pants but they were getting caked up with the wet snow. The trip in wasn’t a pleasant stroll in the woods.

Anyway, I got up in the tree at least an hour early and was wishing I hadn’t had that third cup of coffee before I left the house. I knew what the gallon jug is for that I see tied to other guy’s tree stands. I had forgotten to bring something to sit on as I have a cushion fastened to my tree stand and never had to remember to bring one along. I knew that the seat of my pants (and parts beyond) were in for a soaking as the snow melted and seeped in. But I was determined to stick things out and hunkered down.

I was staring into the darkness listening to the wild turkeys starting to stir all the time knowing that turkey season opened the next day (Thanksgiving Day) for a one day run and that they would be no where around come tomorrow. I shook the gathering snow off my cap, pulled the hood of my coat over my head, and propped the cap on top. I snugged up the zipper of my jacket trying to keep the chill that was sitting in at bay and wished I had that cushion to sit on.

About that time I heard a branch break about 50 yards off. It was still too dark to see anything even if I could have through the blinding snow. I was wishing I had skipped the last episode of Finding Bigfoot on TV the night before. I had gotten a picture of a 350 pound black bear on one of my trail cameras last week and was sure hoping that it wasn’t that bear. I had myself convinced that it was a raccoon coming to the water in the run, so just sat there not being able to see what it was and wishing I had a jug.

I could hear it coming closer and closer and could finely make out a faint outline against the deepening snow. It looked like a human figure and was now convinced that it was Bigfoot. When it was about 20 yards off I blinked my little flashlight in the general direction hoping that it would pierce the blinding snow. No response. It kept moving in my direction. When it was about 10 yards out I turned the light back on and started waving it in a circle. That’s when he turned on his flashlight and signaled back to me. It was another hunter.

I said half under my breath and half out loud, “Dang, he was getting close”.  I just about fell out of the tree when a voice about 10 feet above my head said, “Any closer and he would have been in this tree with us!”  I didn’t need that jug anymore and was glad I hadn’t brought that cushion with me. That’s how thick the hunters are around here.

Keep your fork

Authentic Russian Recipe

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sven, our youngest son, is a certified rocket scientist. He has made two trips to Russia this past year for work and is fluent in the Russian language. On his last trip he was fortunate enough to be invited into the home of a Russian friend, Ivan. Since it’s Thanksgiving he sent an authentic Russian recipe that he said I could share with my readers. Luckly he translated it for me.

BORSCHT

4 chicken thighs, with bones and skin
1/2 tbsp. salt
4 bay leaves
5 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
1 medium or 2 small beets
2 medium carrots
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cabbage head
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp. fresh finely minced dill or 1 tbsp. dry
4 tbsp. fresh finely minced parsley or 1 tbsp. dry
freshly ground pepper

sour cream for serving

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, combine chicken thighs and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, add salt and bay leaves, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chicken pulls away from the bone, about 30 minutes. In the meantime, peel the vegatables, dice the potatoes, mince the onion and garlic (it is ok to use the garlic press). Grate the beets and carrots on the side of the grater with the largest holes, shred the cabbage into thin strips, Cole-slaw style. Remove chicken from the broth and set aside. Add the potatoes to broth, bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork but are still firm.

In the meantime, in a medium skillet saute the onions in oil until translucent. Add beets, carrots, and garlic; saute until the vegetable are soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes (including juice) and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove bones and skin from chicken, discard. Shred chicken with a fork.

Add cabbage to potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cabbage is soft, about 7 minutes. Add stewed vegetables, shredded chicken, lemon juice, dill, parsley, and pepper. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let set, covered, for a few minutes to let flavors meld.

Serve with sour cream and more fresh herbs if desired.

Keep your fork

A trip to the spring

We had a nice drive a couple of days ago. We went up to the spring to get water. The Weather Channel was forcasting snow for today so we wanted to beat the weather and restock our spring water supply. We have been told more than once that the water from our well is “really good water” according to those in the know. The taste is great and we don’t have a monthly water bill like we did when we lived in town. What we found out was that it contains a large amount of calcium deposits or calcium sediment (white stuff). Whenever we can meat or preserves there is a white film left on the bottom of the canner when we get done. We keep a tea kettle full of water on the wood stove which left a white film all over the furniture as well. That isn’t so bad, but when the deposits take out your Keurig, you think twice about it. The costs of those coffee makers warrant that second thought. We have a perfectly good glass perculator we could use with Butternut Coffee from a three pound can but NO we have to use a Keurig with those expensive little coffee pods from Green Mountain.

Anyway, the spring is located about a mile and a squosh up the other ridge of the Massanutten out of Kings Crossing on Hwy 675. On a good day you don’t have to wait for others who are filling their jugs. We have our gallon jugs in plastic 4 gallon milk or storage cases, so we don’t hold up the process if others are waiting. Some people haven’t caught on to this trick yet. They have gallon jugs, quart jugs, two litter bottles, and empty pop bottles all the way down to those cute little 8 ounce water bottles. Some will fill up one at a time and carry it back to their vehicle before rinsing out the next one to start the process all over again.

The ride up there is pretty. You go through the George Washington National Forrest and get to see the Roosevelt Camp Ground, Catherine Furnace Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center, the Massanutten Trail, and lots more. There is a hairpin curve and and an overlook of the Page Valley besides the curves and scenery to look forward to. There is a sign as you start up that says that the road is not recommended for tractor/trailer or GPS traveling. I wouldn’t recommend the road in inclement weather either.

The best part of this water gathering regiment, besides the good white stuff free water, is that we go into town for a sandwich for lunch. All in all, it’s a couple of hours well spent.

Here are the answers for the 10 Questions to Ponder I wrote about last time.

1) How long did the Hundred Years War last? 116 years
2) Which country makes Panama hats? Ecuador
3) From which animal do we get cat gut? Sheep and Horses
4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? November
5) What is a camel’s hair brush made of? Squirrel fur
6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal? Dogs
7) What was King George VI first name? Albert
8) What color is a purple finch? Crimson
9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from? New Zealand
10) What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane? Orange

Keep your fork

10 Questions to Ponder

Trying to find things to do while living up here is no problem. If I can’t find something to do myself, the PQ always seems to have at least three projects going or in mind that requires my expertise or help. I’m talking physical activities if you haven’t guessed. What is lacking sometimes is the mental aspect. She is an avid cruciverbalist and spends down time doing what she loves to keep her mind sharp. Me, I just ponder the meaning of life and try to answer questions that will keep that dreaded disease that affects your memory at bay. Here are 10 questions that I’m currently pondering on. I believe I’ve come up with the correct answers but won’t give them to you in this post. You can run over them a few times and see what you come up with and see how you did in my next post if I remember to give them to you.

1) How long did the Hundred Years’ War last?
2) Which country makes Panama hats?
3) From which animal do we get cat gut?
4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
5) What is a camel’s hair brush made of?
6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?
7) What was King George VI’s first name?
8) What color is a purple finch?
9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from?
10) What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane?

Keep your fork

Handle your nuts properly

The ground seems to be covered with nuts this fall. We had plenty of walnuts for the gathering and now there are pails full of acorns and hickory nuts to be had. I’ve read that there are nearly 50 varieties of acorns around the country. Some are bitter and some are sweet, with most being edible. Here is the proper way to handle acorns for best results.

After winnowing and rinsing off the acorns you have gathered, boil them in clean water for 10 minutes. After you have removed the shells, scrape off as much of the dark membrane as possible. Place the peeled and scraped acorns into clean water and boil for another 10 minutes. If there is any remaining skin, you should be able to easily rub it off. The next step in cleaning is to rinse the nuts in clear running water until the water runs clear. The final step would be to spread them out on a flat pan and bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes to dry off the remaining moisture.

After you have allowed the nuts to cool, you can grind them in a food processor or blender to desired flour or meal consistency. To get one cup of meal you will need to start with about 3 cups of acorns. You an also crack the nuts and use them as nutmeats in various cookie recipes. The flavor of acorn nutmeat is much like that of cashews.

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Hikes to Waterfalls

Skyline Drive follows the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains for 105 miles. It is the scenic roadway through the Shenandoah National Park that runs from Front Royal at the northern end to Waynesboro at the southern end. The drive contains 75 scenic overlooks, many having informational markers that show/explain what you are looking at. There is a 35 mile per hour speed limit that allows you to safely view the wild animals that you may see alongside or crossing the road in front of you. This speed limit also allows for the safety of the hikers and bicyclers that you share the road with.

There are over 500 miles of trails for hikers to enjoy in the park. There are 10 waterfalls in the park that have marked trails for your viewing pleasure. These falls are not visible from Skyline Drive so you must take a hike if you want to see any of them. None of these hikes are easy, some are harder than others. Remember that you walk down to the falls and then you must turn around and hike back up, which always seems longer. Here is a list of the falls and the length of the hike. Overall Run, 6.4 miles; Whiteoak Canyon, 4.6 miles; Cedar Run, 3.4 miles; Rose River, 2.6 miles; Dark Hollow, 1.4 miles; Lewis, 2.0 miles; South River, 2.6 miles; Doyles River #1, 2.6 miles; Doyles River #2, 3.2 miles; and Jones Run, 3.4 miles. Perhaps I’ll list some of the hikes to peaks and vistas in another post.

Keep your fork