Friday, October 23, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

I am blessed with a son who is obsessed with pumpkins. Seriously, he has a problem. He is a pumpkin hoarder. He can't pass a pumpkin patch without going into convulsions. He usually grows his own pumpkins, but this year was not successful. We do have several small pumpkin plants growing in bowls on our dining room table right now though, he hasn't given up. They should be ready by Christmas if they survive... which is usually when JW allows us to get rid of our pumpkins to make room for presents. He did manage to hide one in his room last year until March. See I told you, he has a problem.

So far this year, we have had 9 pumpkins in this house, 4 are currently still here and I'm sure there will be more. 2 met their fate by being carved and then rotted and 3 were cooked. I made the mistake this past weekend of suggesting we go to the Raleigh farmer's market to get some apples, forgetting completely that pumpkins would also be there...huge pumpkins, white pumpkins, tiny pumpkins, weird shaped pumpkins. JW was shaking from pure pumpkin joy. Somehow he talked us into a giant white pumpkin (probably weighs 80 pounds).

JW also loves pumpkin pie and will not hear of using canned pumpkin (something about being against the pumpkin lover's bill of rights or something). So each year we make pumpkin pie from scratch (well right up to the end it's from scratch) and here's how we do it.

First you need to use small pumpkins, also called sugar pumpkins. The smaller they are, the sweeter they are. If you use a larger pumpkin, you may want to add more sugar. These 2 pumpkins made about 5 cups of pumpkin puree, enough for 2 pies or 1 pie and 1 loaf of pumpkin bread (subject of a later post).

Cut the tops off, clean it out and chop it up. Strangely, JW is ok with this step. You wouldn't think he would be. He likes to collect the seeds with future pumpkins in mind.

Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the pieces are fork tender. I have also steamed the pumpkin with a little water in the microwave (takes too long due to too many small batches), and I have boiled it (too watery). The easiest and best results I've got is by baking it.

Now peel the pieces to just leave the good stuff.

Puree the pumpkin in a food processor. You may need to add some water if it is too dry. At this point we usually run out of time or need a break, so we put it in the refrigerator for the night and aim to start fresh the next day. I should say that this is a risky practice though, because distractions and life in general tend to get in the way and the pumpkin gets forgotten until it's too late and all that work was for nothing. This usually happens to us every year so don't feel bad if it happens to you. We understand.

Once you get your life back in order, add a 12 oz can of evaporated milk to 2 cups of the pumpkin puree.

Add 3/4 cup brown sugar.

Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 eggs. Beat well with a mixer or by hand if you have some aggression to work out.

Pour into a frozen 9" deep dish pie shell (this is where the from scratch part falls apart) or make your own crust if you insist. I personally try to avoid using a rolling pin wherever possible. But that's just me. You might be completely different.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Serve with whipped cream of course.

I don't like pumpkin pie but reviews from the family were all good. This is a true labor of love for my pumpkin lovin' boy.

"Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see." ~ Linus

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Funniest Chicken

I was excited today to find out that some pictures that I snapped of our rooster "Roosty" won honorable mention in the Purina Mills fanciest and funniest chicken photo contest. I entered the funniest category. I took these pictures one afternoon back in the spring before and during a thunderstorm. When the storm kicked up we moved to the garage for lots of rooster fun. It was so long ago that I sent the pictures in that I have forgotten which ones I submitted.

Roosty was a stray rooster that wandered up to our farm last spring and decided to stay. He is the nicest rooster without a mean bone in his body (which is unusual for a rooster) He puts up with alot from the kids who love to tote him around the farm.

I took these pictures with some kind of funky color setting accidently set on my camera. But I think they turned out nice!

Let the fun begin. I love this shot with Nickel in the background thinking he'd like chicken for supper.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fun at the 2009 State Fair

One of the reasons I love the month of October is the NC State Fair. We have certain things we HAVE to do or see each year, but each year we always find a few new things as well. Here is a summary of our fair experience this year.

Casey here is modeling the latest in fair fashion. Beautiful dahhhlingg!

She is also showing her "wheels" for the day. We have never attempted the state fair without something with wheels to tote the kids around and I don't think we ever will until they are like 19. We walked pretty much nonstop for 5 hours there is no way we could have survived without this wagon.

This year I got brave and decided to enter one of the Cooking Contests. It was the Hidden Valley Ranch cooking contest. There were 21 entries. I didn't win this year, but have some ideas for next year. I consoled myself with some chocolate covered bacon (it happened to be right next door to this booth, how convenient). I don't recommended it though, it did nothing but make us feel queasy, imagine that!

Our favorite thing to see at the fair are the animals. We got to watch some of the heifer judging. They all looked good to me, but what do I know.

This is something we never miss...the cow milking. For $2 the kids get to milk a cow and get a little half pint of regular or chocolate milk afterward (not directly from the cow!) The kids love it, it's harder than it looks. Last year JW was sitting across from Casey and he squirted milk on Casey's shoe. They are still talking about that one.

I want to take the time now to apologize to the cow above. She'd be so embarrassed that such an intimate picture of her is on the internet. My apologies, lady cow.

Gotta love the babies.

The baby piggies are a must see every year.

We also love the Heritage Village area of the fair, but I didn't get any pictures, probably was reaching exhaustion by then. It has the blacksmith shop where Jason could spend hours and I usually have to drag him away.

Of course there is the eating. Here is a picture of JW eating Fried Alligator on a Stick. He loved it, he said "it is better than chicken!" He told me to go to the grocery store and get some alligator, I said "um, don't think that's going to happen"

Other things we ate today: Chicken Pita (it's a 12 yr tradition for Jason and I), Cajun fries, Cotton Candy, Chocolate covered peanuts, roasted peanuts, fresh pressed apple cider, kettle corn, corn dog, giant turkey leg, soft pretzel. All this added up to $12,000. Not really, but it was close and was probably 12,000 calories.

And of course there are the rides. If it was up to Jason and me, we would avoid the rides completely, but Casey loves to go on rides and insisted on a Ferris Wheel ride. For the 3 of us to go on the Ferris Wheel was $12! But it was worth it, it made Casey happy.

The view from the ferris wheel. All the mud on the right is where they were doing truck/tractor pulls.

Casey got to do one more ride. There is a short list of rides that I deem safe with these portable rides and one of them is the giant slide.

JW talked Jason into doing to dart throw instead of going on a ride. This is their loot (you don't even want to know what this cost us)

Finally when the fair looks like this, it's time to go! You can see my mom next to me in this picture (we both have the navy coats). Mom and Dad joined us today, Dad was the primary photographer as usual and didn't make it into any pictures.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fried Green Tomatoes

This is a great time of year to make fried green tomatoes since tomato plants are still producing tomatoes that probably won't ripen before the end of the season. They should be available in the farmer's market as well. This is my own secret recipe that I've created from combining different elements of many different recipes I've tried, though using ranch dressing is a twist of my own that was probably a sub for buttermilk somewhere along the way.

This is one of the heirloom varieties that I grew this year. It's actually a purple tomato, if it had been allowed to live life to it's fullest.

Slice the tomato and season with salt. Sometimes I sprinkle a little sugar on them too, but I love sugar on my tomatoes, I'm just weird that way. Trust me, it's good.

In one bowl put equal amounts of flour, corn meal and bread crumbs. I used Panko breadcrumbs here, but I think I really prefer just plain old dry breadcrumbs. I just like their texture and taste better for this.

In another bowl put ranch dressing and a couple splashes of hot sauce and mix.

Dredge the tomato slices in the dressing and then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Fry in 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until they are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Introducing the star of this movie...take a bow fried green tomatoes! 2 thumbs up! 5 stars!

Sorry, no more corny movie quotes, I promise!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Trails

Fall is my favorite time of year and is the perfect time to hit the trail. We got brave and decided to go on the first ever attempted Hiser family trail ride last weekend (I can safely say brave and not stupid since we did actually survive to live another day).

We drove to a place we like to ride that is on the Little River near the town of Lillington, NC.

We actually have 5 horses, but only have a 3 horse trailer so the kids had to take turns riding double with Jason. JW went first. They rode our horse Walker. We've had Walker for 11 years. His full name is Walker Texas Ranger since he looks like the horse Walker used to ride on that show. We bought Walker as soon as we got back from our honeymoon from a rodeo stock contractor who had used him as a bucking horse and who knows what else. He was extremely thin when we got him which is amazing since he gets fat on air with us. I have no idea how to even make this horse thin. Through the years we have done a little barrel racing, competitive trail riding and polocrosse with Walker, and he is now excelling as a lesson horse. We love to tell his little students after they ride him that he is an ex-bucking horse. That just never gets old.

Casey is riding LuLu, who we call our million dollar pony. We couldn't ask for a better pony for the kids. She is 27-28 years old and still going strong. Casey does pee-wee barrel racing with her. I bet you can't guess what Casey's favorite color is(her saddle seat is actually pink too).

I thought this was a good shot of Walker. He is what is called a Medicine Hat paint. Native Americans liked to have these horses for battles because they have a war bonnet (the brown color around the ears and down around neck) and a shield, brown color on his chest. They were supposed to give the warriors courage and luck in battle. He also has one blue eye and one brown eye.

We ran into these cool chickens along the way. Around the corner from the chickens was a pasture with horses that we had to pass by. The horses came to the fence to greet us. I told Casey to stay away from the fence and she immediately said "Why, is it on?" It just made me realize how ingrained farm life is into our kids, that she would immediately know that a fence can be "on" (i.e. electric).

Half way through we swapped horses. The black horse's ears here are the closest we got to a picture of me on this ride. This is the horse I was riding, Missy. She is a 19 year old off the track quarter horse who is realizing a new career of barrel racing in her twilight years and is doing really well!

The scenery and the weather was perfect.

Here's a little better shot of me. Well almost. Not really. It's just Missy. Actually I'm kind of glad there were no pictures of me...I had my camera bag over my shoulder and the only bag we could find at the last minute to carry drinks, Casey's ladybug backpack. I looked really good..I mean really good. Luckily we only ran into 2 other people along the way.

We had no idea how long the kids would last on their first off the farm trail ride. They made it all the way around the 2 hour loop with no whining. We even got lost once with no meltdowns. Overall, it was an extremely successful trip!