The Cabin View

The Cabin View

Monday, January 13, 2020

My Attempt At Making Pasties

I am neither a Cornish miner nor am I from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but I am a fan the pasty.  If you don't know what they are, they are basically a beef pot pie which originated a long long time ago.

My first experience with them was when I was young. I was probably 11 or 12 when a neighbor introduced them to my family. They had move from Mineral Point, Wisconsin where the pasty was a popular food. I kind of liked them but my mother didn't care for them for some reason. I never had them again until I was an adult. I never realized the Mineral Point connection until I read Mining for Justice by Kathleen Ernst which took place in Mineral Point, Wisconsin and the story line was about the miners. Even though the pasty was supposedly invented in Cornwall England, they have become popular in many communities with mining histories. Today when a person drives through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, pasties are a common menu item in many restaurants. I have had good ones and not so good ones, but they always appealed to me.

I decided to try my hand at making them. One thing I didn't like about some was the additional flavors that I wasn't fond of or maybe I just wasn't familiar with.  We are basic meat and potato people. I found a recipe that looked good. It used only salt and pepper for seasonings.  It was published by a restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin and was featured on a cooking show called Living with Amy. Since following the original recipe I have modified the it because the ratio of vegetable and meat to the amount of dough didn't seem correct. I believe where the recipe says five pounds of potatoes, it should say five cups of potatoes. Since I followed the original recipe, I ended up with twice as many vegetables as I needed and put the extra filling in a ten inch pie shell. It made a big pot pie.

You can watch the video for the process, but here is my corrected recipe.

Beef Pasty

For the Dough:

2 cups Shortening or Lard

2 cups Boiling water

5 1/2-6 cups Flour

2 tsp Salt

For the Filling:

1 lb. carrots, diced (about 5-6 large carrots)

1 lb. rutabaga, diced (about 1 medium)

2 medium onions, diced

5 cups Potatoes, diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 lbs Hamburger


To make the dough,  first melt the shortening with the boiling water, then add flour and salt and mix with large spoon. I used the dough hook with my Kitchen aid mixer. The mixture will be sticky and must be refrigerated for 2 hrs or overnight.

Filling: Mix all ingredients together very well.

To assemble: On a floured surface roll out about 1/2 c of dough into a circle about 6 inches. Then place 1 cup of filling mixture in middle and top with butter pat, fold over dough, push edges together, cut off excess dough, put 2-3 slits on top of pasty then roll edges closed. Place on cookie sheet and egg wash before baking.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-55 minutes until lightly brown.

These are a little time consuming to make, but we really enjoyed them. We will get many meals from this one batch. I got sixteen pasties and a large pot pie which I cut into four portions. I froze meal sized portions and then put them in food saver bags. You always freeze baked goods or soft foods first. If not, when removing the air from a food saver bag, you will have a mushy mess. We like them with hot gravy poured on top but my grandson likes them with ketchup. 

I usually have gravy in the freezer.  Whenever I make a beef roast, I use the drippings to make a large batch of gravy. If you have ever looked at the ingredients in powdered gravy packets or on the ingredients label of a jar of gravy, you may want to make your own.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Cream of Rice Cereal

When I was little many many years ago, my mother's go to cure all was Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice hot cereals.  She made these hot cereals whenever any of us had a "tummy ache".  That is what we called any upset stomach.  It was my mom's go to cure all even when she was in her 80's.  My grandpa used the term tummy ache when he was in his 80's also, but that was code for wanting us to go to the store for those round Pepto Bismol tasting pink candies.  One of my favorite memories of him was always having those candies close at hand.

Last week my husband was nursing a respiratory virus and didn't feel very well.  He didn't want any heavy meals, and he was sick of eggs and oatmeal for breakfast.  He ate a lot of soup but really didn't know what to eat in the morning.  I remembered the hot cereal from my youth.  Of course, I hadn't bought any Cream of Wheat, Malt o Meal or Cream of Rice for years.  So what do I do, I make my own.  I decided cream of rice would be the easiest.  I would have liked to have used brown rice because it is more nutritious, but I was out of that too.  I opted for white rice.  I looked up the cost of Nabisco cream of rice cereal, and it was between $4 and $5 per 14 ounces of dry cereal.  White rice is very inexpensive, it's gluten free and it doesn't have any added ingredients.  What if I spent $5, and he hated it.  His mother never made cream of rice cereal.  Well, maybe when he was a baby.  Rice cereal is usually one of the first foods babies eat.  I really didn't have anything to lose.

I put two cups of rice in the blender and ground it into a fine powder.  It looked just like flour.  I imagine you could use it just as potato starch or cornstarch to thicken other foods as well.

Then I put 1 cup of cold water into a sauce pan, a pinch of salt and stirred in 1/4 cup of this pulverized rice.  It dissolved quickly.  Then I turned on the heat, brought the liquid to a boil and cooked the rice for 1 1/2 minutes.  Total cooking time was less than four minutes.

The final product was creamy and smooth.  In my opinion, it needs some sweetening or it could resemble wallpaper paste.  I added some plain white sugar, but honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or fruit would be wonderful.  I put almond milk on my husbands, but a little milk of any kind would work.  This is a "to taste" type cereal because it tastes like unseasoned rice, but very filling, easy on the stomach and satisfying.

It is easy and fast to make.  For people who can't have gluten, it's the perfect choice.  Just make sure the white rice you have is plain with nothing else added.  He asked for it again, so I think he liked it.  I tried it too and it truly could be considered comfort cereal.

Friday, November 22, 2019

What Do You Want For Dinner?

I believe that almost every night for the past 51plus years, I have asked someone in my family "What do you want for dinner?".  Most of the time the answer I got was "I don't know".  Yet somehow we managed to find something to eat and never once starved.  Sometimes I imagine someone wished they would have spoken up and told me what they wanted because what I made wasn't all that great.  I would get on health kicks even when my kids were little when it wasn't in fashion to eat bulgar or lentils.  I would get so creative that my husband would give me the thumbs up or thumbs down.  As you can imagine a "meat" loaf made out of zero meat and bread made with sprouted wheat berries didn't get a thumbs up.  Even when we would go out for dinner, we usually didn't know what to order and often regretted our choice.

Tonight was no different.  We got home about 4:00.  I said, "what do you want for dinner?".  No response so I went into the kitchen.  I was cold and tired so I decided to make some hamburger soup.  I always have some fried out hamburger in the freezer for times like this.  Shoot, I couldn't find any.  Last December we bought a half of a grass fed beef cow.  Before that time, I would buy big family packs of hamburger and brown the whole package.  Then I would freeze containers of about a pound each.  Here is my best technique for browning ground beef.

Now our hamburger is frozen into two pounds lumps.

If you don't think about thawing it out in advance, you are out of luck or you have to figure out how to thaw it quickly.  We all know that a microwave defrosts meat but it also starts cooking it before it's totally thawed.  I figured out a little better way.  I use the same method as I use for boiling eggs.  I use the pressure cooker (Instant Pot).  I put one cup of water in the pot.  Then I put a steamer basket in the pot with the center spindle removed.

Next I put the cover on and pressure on high for 7-9 minutes depending on the weight of the meat.  This was two pounds, and it took about eight minutes.  The outside turns brown but the inside is thawed and still uncooked.  I removed the steamer basket and added the meat back in.  Next I browned the hamburger right in the pot.

While I was pressuring the meat, I peeled some carrots, cut up some celery and an onion.  I then used one of my favorite gadgets, the Vidalia, and cut the veggies into bite sized pieces.  I opened a can of diced tomatoes, opened a carton of broth, a can of tomato soup and set aside a 1/2 cup of barley with 2 cups of water.

When the hamburger was ready, I piled on the rest of the ingredients.

I mixed everything together with a half bag of frozen mixed vegetables and some seasonings. and set the pressure cooker on high for another seven minutes.  I let it stay on warm until we were ready to eat.

It was pretty good, warmed us up and made a big enough batch so tomorrow I may be able to get by with serving it again.

As for all the vegetable scraps, we compost.  For years we would throw anything compostable into a plastic ice cream bucket.  When it was full, we would take it outside and put it on the compost pile.

Now we have a Vitamix Food Cycler.  It is a contraption that looks like a bread maker.  It collects and stores all our compost until the container is full.  At that time, we push a start button, and it turns stinky compost scraps into dry deodorized compost.  It isn't cheap but it makes our life a lot easier and it smells a lot better.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Little Pumpkin Birdfeeder

This is going to be a really short blog, but I want to remember doing this.  Fall is a time for pumpkin everything.  We have pumpkin spice foods, trips to the pumpkin patch and the carving of Halloween jack-o-lanterns.  Fall is also a time for the weather to get cooler leaving the birds who don't migrate searching for food.  I feed the birds all year but in the fall I pick it up a bit.  The natural food isn't as plentiful.  This year I incorporated pumpkins and feeding the birds.  Our daughter grows pumpkins and a lot of squash.  Our grandson has a little farm stand where he sells some of these products.  I picked out two small less than perfect pumpkins for this project. 

I cut the pumpkin in half.  I loosened the seeds but left most of them in the pumpkin.  I filled the cavity with some birdseed blend, peanuts and sunflower seeds.  I figured I would give the birds a choice as to what they want to eat.  My problem was two fold.  One was to place it where the squirrels couldn't reach it and the other was to figure out how to hang it.  I found the perfect solution.  It was the Baltimore Oriole jelly feeder.  I cut a circle out of the bottom of the pumpkin and placed it on the feeder tray.  This way water would drain away if it rained, it had a perch for the birds and it was secure.

The birds are loving it.  The cardinals, nuthatches, finches and bluejays have emptied it already. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Making a Concrete Pumpkin

The stores have been showing their Halloween and Fall displays since the 4th of July, but I thought I would wait until now, October 1,  to show our latest crafting project.  Quite a while ago I saw this project on Pinterest.  As with all projects on Pinterest, the end result could go either way.  Usually they don't turn out at all, but this one has mixed reviews.  Mostly it was a success.

We made Concrete Pumpkins.  The first thing that needed to be done was to gather some plastic trick or treat buckets.  We made the rounds and found several priced from 25 cents to $1.00.  The last place we stopped was a Goodwill store, and they had many.  At least we now know where we could find more if we want to.

We didn't work alone.  We made arrangements with our friends, who happen to be our son in law's parents, to do the project together.  We often find adventures or do projects together.  Wayne gathered all the things we needed to do the project.  We brought a bag of concrete mix to add to the mix they already had and a few buckets, but he did the rest.

Then the mixing began.  We were very deliberate at first, measuring, adding water and mixing very carefully.

By the end, we were scooping mix and splashing water.  I mistakingly said that my arms weren't tired, and we were proud that we were able to hand mix two fifty pound bags of concrete mix plus two ten pound bags.  A couple days later I felt it in my shoulders, but not too bad.  As we mixed, we put it in the plastic buckets.

We used a tree branch cut to length for the stem and put them in when the concrete was still wet.

Then the concrete had to dry.  It took a few days before the unveiling.  Getting the buckets off was not as easy as it looks.  We even sprayed the inside with baking spray.  Wayne ended up cutting sections of the plastic bucket and lifting the finished pumpkin out.  Since each pumpkin took twenty pounds of concrete mix, they are very heavy.

They turned out pretty well.  The coarse concrete mix made it difficult to get a really smooth finish, but that was fine.  Some of the faces turned out more distinct than others.  That is something to look for if we make them again.  Some buckets have deeper indentations than others.

Beth kept some and I took three home.  Now how to decorate them was the challenge.  She painted hers with acrylic paint.

I gave my three to my daughters.  One daughter left hers plain.  I'm not sure if she will decorate it or not.  My other daughter used chalk paint and placed them with her outside decorations.

All in all it was a fun and successful Pinterest project.  We learned that our choice of buckets was important and possibly a finer concrete mix would give a smoother finish.  They will last for many years.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

My Barrel Cactus Surprise Flower

Five years ago, I was given a small barrel cactus.  It wasn't any bigger than a quarter.  I brought it home and put it in a pot.  I have done nothing with it except water it occasionally.  In the summer, I put it outside,  and in the winter I put it where ever I can find room for it.   It has grown quite a bit.  This summer was no different.  As soon as the danger of frost had past, I put the cactus outside on our deck.  I didn't pay it much attention until one day I noticed a slight bulge on the side of the plant.

I wasn't quite sure what it was.  I was hoping for a flower or at the least a baby cactus.  It grew very fast and in a few days it had grown a lot.

I still didn't quite know what it was.  I watched it very carefully everyday.

Then in a couple more days, I could tell it was going to be a flower.  Having no experience with this, I didn't know how long it would take to bloom.  It didn't take long, within a day or so I woke up to a beautiful blossom.

Within a day the long stem separated from the barrel and fell off.  I think it was supposed to dry up and fall off but we had a heavy rain the night before which probably made the blossom too heavy.

I picked it up and put it in a jar thinking it would only last a couple hours.  It lasted a couple days and then shriveled up.

This whole process was complete in eight days.  I noticed the bump on August 6, the larger bud on August 9, the full bud on August 12 and the full flower on August 14.  I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of more flowering to come.  I should take it out of its tacky little pot with a hole in it, but I don't want to ruin a good thing.  Soon it will be too big for the pot and I will be forced to repot it, but hopefully I can get one more year and another flower or two. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sometimes It's Hard To Help Mother Nature

Whoever said you can't mess with Mother Nature is correct AGAIN.  We see it with the polar ice caps melting.  I read recently that Greenland lost 11 billion tons of ice in one day.  As most of my friends know, for several years I have been raising Monarch butterflies from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis and then to the adult.

I have blogged about it many times and enjoy it so much.  The feeling of seeing the process never gets old.  Now in light of new developments, I have to suspend this activity.  At least until scientists change their minds about the value of this activity.

There are a few reasons for this.  The first involves scientific evidence that this activity doesn't really help increase the population.  I can't imagine why it doesn't make a difference with so many individuals and school classrooms doing it, but scientists say that even if it is effective for some species it doesn't help the Monarch butterfly population.  They say it may even have a negative effect.  There is not much of a risk on the small scale if they are being watched for educational purposes or enjoyment.  The risk is when the Monarchs are being raised in high numbers in a captive situation.  There are companies that sell Monarch caterpillars.   The butterflies aren't used to being in such close proximity to others.  The chance of disease is greater than in the wild.  If unhealthy Monarchs are being released it's chance of survival is lower, reproduction is compromised and then migration is a problem because they are weaker.  Another article I read says they may be disoriented because spinning a chrysalis indoors confuses their sense of direction.  It is important to release the adult butterfly in the same area as the egg was collected.  The last argument is that over time the genetics can be changed.   

I really want to do what is best for the Monarch butterfly population.  I also had another problem this year.  It had never happened before, but one of my caterpillars was parasitized by an adult female Tachinid Fly.  What happens is the fly lays eggs on a host.  This fly is beneficial most of the time because it helps control garden pests like tent caterpillars, Japanese beetles, cutworms and other pests.  The downside is that this fly also feeds off Monarch caterpillars.   A few days ago I noticed one of my caterpillars had formed the "J" shape.  Usually within a day they spin the chrysalis.  This caterpillar was going through the motions and suddenly it stopped moving right before I went to bed.  In the morning I found a four inch thin white strand hanging from the caterpillar.  The caterpillar was dead.  I learned that after this fly lays eggs on the caterpillar, a larva hatches and burrows inside to feed.  This kills the caterpillar and when the fly larva emerges it leaves a thin white strand.  The larva is worm like but soon hardens into a reddish capsule resembling a bean.  This is the pupa stage.  In a couple days a new fly hatches from the pupa and the process starts all over. 

I won't include a picture of the dead caterpillar with the thin white thread.  It is just too sad looking.  I couldn't find the "bean" but disposed of the dead caterpillar hoping none of the others were parasitzed.  As a precautionary measure, I took everything out of the habitat except the hanging chrysalises.  I cleaned it and one by one replaced the caterpillars onto fresh milkweed leaves.  I did find two "beans" and destroyed them.  Hopefully they hadn't hatched yet.  If they have, we may be in for more tragedy.  Everything looks good right now.  I just want to raise the caterpillars and chrysalises I have to adult butterflies.  Then that will be the end of that.  I really enjoyed the process but what I can do now is provide an outdoor habitat with lots of milkweed plants and never use any pesticides. 

Hopefully future studies will prove this latest information incorrect, but until then I will love and enjoy these beautiful butterflies in my yard.