Easter

Spring foraging and Ramp Sliders

Easter weekend has over the years become a Ramp Feast. ( Ramps are wild onions that grow for only short period of time in the Appalachian Mountains every spring.) This year we struggled to get out into the woods. Cold, rain and snow every weekend made the prospect of taking Christopher foraging a little unpleasant. So we finally got to head out for Morels (a wild mushroom) and ramps this weekend and were surprised with both.

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Cleaned wild ramps ready for cooking

We have missed Morel season the last two years and have come home empty-handed but this weekend we found several and ended up with a few pounds of ramps from a family friends property. This was also our first real trip to the woods with Doc our puppy coonhound. What an adventure we had and what a wonderful lunch the ramps and mushrooms turned into.

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Morel and Pheasant tail mushrooms washed and ready to eat.

Our morning started with a rather long walk into the woods to find the right conditions for Morels and along the way I spotted some wonderful spring sights.

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Red Buds blooming lighting up the dark forest with the bright pink flowers.

 

 

After a few hours in the woods we had our bags were full and empty tummies. It was time to make a lunch with some of our treasures. I made hamburger sliders with sautéed ramps and mixed cheeses. It was fast, easy and delicious.

I used Kings Hawiian sweet dinner rolls for a bun and good quality ground beef. Making about 6 sliders from a pound of beef. The magic ingredient was the wine sautéed ramps. I took about 10 ramps cleaned and sliced them very thin and added them to a skillet with one teaspoon bacon grease, wilting the greens down. When the greens wilted I add 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup Marsala Wine and reduced the heat and simmer with salt and pepper for about 8 to 10 minutes. While the ramps simmered I made and cooked the burgers and topped them with a Colby/ Jack shredded cheese mixture. Assembled it all on a dinner roll with a little mayo and topped with two heaping spoonfuls of wine soaked ramps.  What a pleasure it was to eat and what a joy to make again.

Happy Spring Foraging to all of You!

 

Ramps with bacon grease and Marasal wine

Sliced Ramps with Marsala wine carmelized in bacon grease.

Ramp and Cheese Sliders spring wild food

Wine soaked ramp and cheese slider on a Kings Hawaiian dinner roll.

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, cheese, Easter, Foraging, Mushrooms, organic food, ramps, Ramps, snacks | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Celebrate Easter with Trout and Ramps .

It is official spring has come to the Mountain State. Trout and Ramp Season has begone and I am getting excited for the first skillet full of the wild food that is traditional in West Virginia.  My husband’s family have enjoyed fresh trout and ramps for generations. As far back as the family story can remember. The family enjoyed the freedom of the Mountains where tiny speckled fish and ramps are always a part of the celebration spring.

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Brook Trout by Mat Hardy from Trout Unlimited

Often my husband and his father would take off in the middle of April for a trout fishing trip with hopes of also gathering a burlap sack of ramps. The farther from civilization they drove the smaller the trout got and the larger the ramps grew. So off on some deserted logging road on a mountain top, where a small stream started, my father-in-law and husband would be found fishing. The tiny native trout with copper skin and bright orange spots are fighters like anything that lives so far into the mountains.Making an almost freezing morning exciting as the two would wade the stream looking for ramps along the way.

Field of wild growing Ramps

Field of wild growing ramps

When the noon day sun would finally reach the steam at the bottom of the holler they were fishing the two would break for lunch. The two eating pepperoni rolls off the tail gate of an old truck, they would talk about if the fishing was good enough to spend more time in the water or if it was time to trade the fishing poles for a ramp hoes. Neither father or son would want to leave the peacefulness of the rushing spring water but they knew more treasures waited for them on the mountainsides.

Tom fishing on a cold Easter Morning

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County, West Virginia

 

The team would drag themselves up the steep banks of the mountains with a short-handled hoe, looking for clumps of green in the otherwise brown forest floor. If ramps were spotted, one would yell out to the other in the other wise silent woods and the digging would start. Gathering just enough of the bulbs for the family and leaving many to spread out the seeds of future plants.By late afternoon the two would shimmy back down the mossy covered banks to the truck. Fresh fish would be in the cooler chilling, topped with a sack of muddy ramps. The two would ride the bumpy road back home for a fest of fresh spring foods.These foods were almost impossible to get any other time of the year and the deep joy of finally being free from the winter always made the meals more pleasant.

Often the first dinner that we fix of ramps is meatless. Not for any reason other than it seems fitting that such an early spring meal would have also been meatless for  generations of homesteaders of this land. They would have enjoyed a meal of fresh ramps with brown beans, cornbread and maybe if their storage was good fried potatoes. Our ancestors would have celebrated that fresh greens had to grown again and life had returned to the hills they called home.Ramps brown beans and fried potatoes cornbread

So as my family celebrates Easter weekend, I am not only thinking of my Savior and his miraculous life, I am thinking of countless generations of West Virginians who have come before me. I am thinking of the blessings and bounty of another spring and of how to share its traditions and stories with the next generation. How a fish and a sticky bulb were not a trendy food but a way of life for the mountain people of Appalachia and how I can keep the spirit of thankfulness alive.

Happy Easter my friends enjoy Spring !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Corn bread, country cooking, Country life, Easter, fishing, Homestead, ramps, Ramps, trout | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Flowers, Forest and Fauna: Spring time in West Virginia

As many of you already know I love to take photos,I almost always have a camera with me. So I seem to find all kinds of wonderful things to take photos of. This spring has been so busy, I am surprised, that I have even found time for short bursts of creativity where I take photos. So today I just wanted to share with all of you some of the things I have been seeing in my little corner of the world here in West Virginia this spring.

close up of a fresh Rhododendron bloom

close up of a fresh Rhododendron bloom

This is one of the views I wake up to every morning for the month of May.

Tom blending into the tree line as we turkey hunt

Tom blending into the tree line as we turkey hunt

We did some Turkey hunting early in the month of May but we struck out. No fresh turkey for dinner this year. Tom and I heard a few gobbles but nothing close enough to think about. The weather was unusually warm and dry and this may have effected the turkeys.

Pheasant tail mushrooms AKA Dryad saddle mushrooms

Pheasant tail mushrooms AKA Dryad saddle mushrooms

This meant that the weather was great for mushrooms. We found a bounty of these Pheasant Tail mushrooms while out turkey hunting. They are an easy to find, spring edible mushroom, we found many in the woods that day.

Pheasant tail mushroom on tree stump

Pheasant tail mushroom on tree stump

The first bloom of spring at the new house

The first bloom of spring at the new house

I tired of  all the snow, cold and wet of winter this year and was over joyed to see this. When this sign of spring finally opened, I felt as if I took a long deep breath, knowing winter was really over.

Spring Stream in Pendelton County WV

We did get a day to hike and fish before the spring weather got to hot( by May 23 the temps had already hit 94 degrees F) this stream was a great place to rest and fish on our day long adventure.

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Boundary marker for public land

 

Moss covered stones along the river at Ten Mile WV

Moss covered stones along the river at Ten Mile WV

We have also had a very popular back yard this year, with lots of wild baby animals roaming around. This spring Tom and I have found Toads, baby rabbits, baby squirrels, baby Doves and Robbins and a Box Turtle so far. It makes for a very educational trip out side. Now if we can just get Christopher over his fear of frogs and toads.

meet Chipper and Splinter the Barnwood builder Babies

meet Chipper and Splinter the Barn Wood Builder Babies

Red Eyed Box turtle walking across the back yard

Red Eyed Box turtle walking across the back yard

Then of course we have a photo of Christopher’s favorite wild animal… Jinn the photo bomber.

Jinn the photo bombing cat

Jinn the photo bombing cat

So thing here are busy, the house remodel is just about finished. Summer is taking hold and the heat is on. The last four days have been in the upper 80’s and 90’s. School will be over in about a week and Christopher will be starting summer swimming lessons. Most of the spring flowers are already gone for the year (I already miss them). The garden got planted but we are so late that it will be a month before I see any real growth . So Summer will be a time to hunt mushrooms in the cool shade of the dark hard woods and maybe even a weekend trip of camping. I will be ready for it sooner than it will happen but until them I keep my eyes open for more beauty that I see every day.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Baby Animals, Easter, flowers, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, photo review, Photos, Turkey season, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Spring Time in West Virginia means Trout and a trip to Seneca Rocks

Spring is here and our family always tries to head out doors as soon as April arrives. The flowers begin to bloom  and the trout are ready to bite.  We took a break from work on the remodel of our family room because the tile I ordered came in a week late. Yea, Tom and I are thrilled that the three-day Easter weekend that we planed to put the tile in was delayed again. So instead of working on the house Tom, Christopher and I spent the day in the mountains. It was a nice break and the weather was perfect… I am so glad we worked this day into our Easter weekend plans.

Easter blooms at Seneca Rocks State Park

Easter blooms at Seneca Rocks State Park

The trip Tom planed was to hit a new  trout fishing stream in Seneca Rocks area of Pendleton County, West Virginia. The drive was about an 1 hour and 40 minutes from where live and is close to Seneca Rock State Park where we would spend part of the afternoon.The trout fishing in this area of the state is excellent and fishing is good in side the state park but the area is catch and release only. Tom was able to catch 6 nice fish in this rural stream in a matter of about 2 hours. The air was still cold when we arrived and the temp on the dash of my car said 28 degrees so Christopher and I would fish a while and then move out of the shadow of the mountain and play in the sun to warm up.

Sign showing the Eastern Continental divide at the boarder of Randolph and Pendleton Counties

Sign showing the Eastern Continental divide at the border of Randolph and Pendleton Counties

Snow on hill side on Easter near Onego WV

Snow on hill side on Easter near Onego WV

Christopher fishing along a trout stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

Christopher fishing along a trout stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

 

The sun finally crested over the mountain tops around noon. The sky was cloudless and we headed into town for lunch and to the state park for an afternoon of  hiking through some of the most beautiful rock formations in the state.

 

Advertisement on barn on the way to Seneca Rock... and Lunch

Advertisement on barn on the way to Seneca Rock… and Lunch

Seneca rocks is of our favorite places to just spend the day. They have fun shops that remind you of the 1800’s,  they have camping, horse back riding,and a few restaurants. The place is a lazy country town with out a formal plan and no rush hour and no stop light. It very much reminds me of the small mountains towns I grow up with in Colorado. You can fish, hike and watch the rock climbers in the sun. As you walk from one shop to another you relax as the sheep in the fields graze around you.

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

 

Harper's Old County store

Harper’s Old County store

Country Roads take me home Hwy 55 Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Country Roads take me home Hwy 55 Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

After lunch and buying some fresh made maple syrup from a county store, we headed to the park where we spent a few minutes at the visitor center and observation deck. The view was fantastic.

Seneca Rocks State Park Easter 2015

Seneca Rocks State Park Easter 2015

Tom and I wanted to get a closer look and spent the remaining part of our afternoon walking the grounds and finally  hiking about half way to the summit of the rocks. There is an observation landing on the far left of the first rise of the rocks. The trip is about a mile and half from the base and about 2 miles from the observation deck

Seneca rocks from the parks visitor center

Seneca rocks from the parks visitor center

Time was too short to reach the observation this time, so this up hill hike will remain on my “to do” list for another year. The trail was also crowded with people. The park had just reopened for the season and the weather was good.

Tom and Christopher on the bridge trail at the base of Seneca Rocks

Tom and Christopher on the bridge trail at the base of Seneca Rocks

We then spent some time looking at the home stead cabin that is part of the park grounds. We visited here back two years ago on our camping trip and I wished that it had been open for visitors this time. Here is what you may find at the home stead during summer hours.

 

Home Stead at Seneca Rocks state Park

Home Stead at Seneca Rocks state Park

Bee Balm outside of cabin

Bee Balm outside of cabin

Wagon wheel at the Home Stead House at Seneca Rocks State Park WV

Wagon wheel at the Home Stead House at Seneca Rocks State Park WV

Porch table at Home Stead Cabin Seneca Rocks State Park

Porch table at Home Stead Cabin Seneca Rocks State Park

The drive home was quite, Tom and Christopher both took naps in the warm sun that shone through the windows.  I was so happy that we were able to take some time and get back in the woods after such a long and cold winter. We will eat the trout for dinner and hope to find some Ramps along the way back home. At this time of year people sell them off the hoods of trucks and cars, 10$ for 5 pounds….. yummy fresh spring foods. I could not wait to get home to my kitchen.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Easter, family fun, fishing, hiking, Seneca Rocks, State Park activities, trout, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pickled Eggs with Garden Beets a Colorful way to Serve farm Eggs.

As with almost all pickles, pickled eggs were a safe and easy way to store food without refrigeration. Using simple ingredients like water, sugar and cider vinegar people could save their extra eggs from the summer and eat them when the long winter depleted families stores of meat and poultry. I have read that it was the Amish that added their wonderful pickled beets to the eggs to add color and a spicy twist. The tradition is very popular in West Virginia  where the eggs are found everywhere from the grocery store to road side restaurants. We are so luck to have  many of the Amish traditions passed down from their communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

half of pickled egg

half of pickled egg

My family takes the beets from our garden and pickles them in a spicy brine of cider vinegar, sugar, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. We then add the pickled beets to boiled eggs. Adding in a fresh dose of water, sugar and cider vinegar  for a holiday treat. I make these lovely hot pink  eggs at Christmas and Easter every year. Starting about 5 days before the holiday so that the eggs are pink to the edge of the yolk. Letting the eggs soak any longer the brine will toughen the yolk and make it rubbery.

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I take 10 boiled eggs to one quart of pickled beets, either home-made or store-bought, adding them to a gallon non reactive container with a lid. To this mixture I add 1 cup water, 1 cup cider vinegar and 3/4 cup sugar to a sauce pan on the stove and simmer until sugar dissolves. I pour that hot mixture over eggs and beets, mix well, seal with a lid and store 4 to 5 days to get the pink up to the edge of the egg white. The longer the eggs soak the stronger the taste.

Pickled eggs floating in beet brine. in a non reactive container

Pickled eggs floating in beet brine. in a non reactive container

We serve the eggs along with the pickled beets that are in the bottom of the container. The sweet beets are a treat that I can not pass up and the kids love to take a bite into an egg that is not totally pink all the way through and has a bright white stripe inside.

There are many other ways to make pickled eggs some are hot and spicy with hot peppers added, some call for onions and some that are just a cider brine with white eggs. But in our house nothing reminds me of spring as much at hot pink eggs at our Easter table.

Categories: apple cider vinger, beets, beets, canning, Easter, eggs, Preserving | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Easter Egg Hunting at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Every Easter we try to spend at least part of our day at one of North Central West Virginia most interesting places, The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum a.k.a. as the Weston State Hospital. This century old building is now the site of many community activities and in is an ongoing state of restoration. It is one of the places that I visit regularly with family and friends because of the wide verity of activities that go one in the stone building and on the 300 acre property.This massive structure and the grounds that surround it are the largest stone cut building in North America and second only in size to the Kremlin in Russia.

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The history of the this wonderful grand old buildings constructions begins before the civil war and official opening of its doors took place in 1881. The Hospital was home to up to 2400 patients in the 1950’s and continued to house the mentally ill until the last of 1994 when the mental hospital was officially closed for use. Finally after sitting abandon for years, in Aug of 2007 the Jordan family bought the building and grounds. Ever since that sale on the court-house lawn, the family have been on a journey to restore and reuse the building and grounds. It is now a place that draws thousands of families, tourists, photographers, ghost hunters and television crews. They offer tours, ghost hunts, plays, outdoor concerts and one of the largest Easter egg hunts in our state.

I try to take Christopher to play on the huge 3 acre front lawn whenever there is a community activity. In the center of the huge yard is wonderful water fountain that is the center of all the outdoor gatherings. Christopher and a school  mate try to capture a balloon that is in the fountain before the 400 hundred colored eggs are ready for them to find.

Fountain at the Easter Egg Hunt at the TALA

Fountain at the Easter Egg Hunt at the TALA

 

 

Balloon caught in the fountain of the TALA

Balloon caught in the fountain of the TALA

view of the fountain from inside the entry of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Assylum

view of the fountain from inside the entry of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

While the 200 children and their families prepare for the day of hunting eggs, the TALA opens its doors to the public, offering tours of the 1-4 floors of the main building. Other tours take place on weekdays and at night if  any one wants to see some of the hospitals famous ghosts. They also offer one of the east coasts best Halloween Haunted Houses in Oct every year. Named “Ward 21” after another building on the grounds it never fails to scare the pee out of several visitors every year.  I have been on some of the tours and went through the haunted house myself and all of the activities are well worth the price of admission. My best friend Natalie and I did the haunted house together several years ago and believe me what we experienced in that dark haunted house could fill a blog post all by its self.

While inside the building Christopher and I took a look around at some of  the rooms that were still in need of  restorations and cooled off in the cool corridors of the 4 foot thick walls of  this massive structure.

Visiting area in side the TALA.

Visiting area in side the TALA.

 

Main hall way to the west  at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Main hall way to the west at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Soon we heard the call for the”Egg Hunt” to begin and returned to the yard, and lined up for the afternoon of racing around collecting eggs. The race courses are divided into age groups to make every thing fair for the littler ones.  The horn sounds and off they ran under huge trees that have seen more years than my short life span.

Easter Egg hunters on the Lawn of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Easter Egg hunters on the Lawn of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

At the end of the race Christopher and some friends sat in the shadow of a large oak and opened the eggs that our community helps to pay for each year. I think we went home with about 20 eggs, each with a prizes or candy inside of each egg.

Kevin Freeman a local business owner and daughter open eggs after the hunt

Kevin Freeman a local business owner and daughter open eggs after the hunt

While the crowds began to filter away from the grounds and head home for more Easter dinners and games. I took a few more shots of the wonderful grounds and some but not all of the buildings.

Outside view of the visiting room

Outside view of the visiting room end of main building

 

 

door into back of modern addition of building

door into back of modern addition of building

window looking out into court yard of the civil war section of the hospital

window looking out into court-yard of the civil war section of the hospital

Easter was another wonderful day at one of Weston, West Virginia’s most interesting places. I hope that you can now see why we try to visit and support one of my favorite historic buildings. For more information on visiting here and taking a tour or visiting the haunted house please take a look at their website at The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. There are many community activities that this old building supports and even if you only spend a day on the lawn watching children play it is a day well spent.

photo of the TALA photo credit to thier wed site

photo of the TALA photo credit to their wed site. Transalleghenylunaticasylum.com

Categories: Easter, Holidays, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia, Weston | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Our Bunnies and a Easter wish to you

As you already know one of the many things we have decided to do in an effort  to become more self-reliant  is to raise rabbits. I have been a  rabbit lover since my folks let me have them as a kid and have been known to have up to 18 at a time. With our recent move a couple of years ago the only thing I wanted from our farm of animals was my rabbits. I had visions of raising, selling, showing and eating my farm raised rabbits. Well over the first year here at the OLD house on the edge of town two things happened that I could have never foreseen. First was the sickness and later death of my large brood Doe… after about 8 years she caught a cold after our move and died before the antibiotics took effect. Second was the loss of my little Doe that was Christopher’s show bunny. She escaped her cage and we spent days trying to recapture her in our large yard. This was a major set back for me as I had planned to raise a litter of Kits for sale at Easter and/or to show this year at the 4-H shows and State Fair.

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

So we started the long process of starting over. I wanted a rabbit that was a multi-purpose breed, that could be sold for pets,shown or used as food if I ended up with more than my fair share of off spring. So I found that perfect combination of traits in the Sable Rabbit. We were off and running when a local woman offered to give Christopher a Sable that was not pure bred as a gift. I thought that this would set us up with a nice pet and get my then 4-year-old interested in animals and their care.  So we were up and running with this little guy.

Well this  wonderful and clam rabbit has won our hearts and has been traveling with us as we take him to local pet shows and 4- H gatherings. By Fall Christopher and Ratchet became a team and we discovered that we had gotten a great starter show bunny for him even if he was not pure bred.

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

I then started a conversion with some of the local kids and competitors at our local 4-H and many of them suggested that I think seriously about Christopher’s future with rabbits as show animals and how hard some kids work at breeding and showing them. At last count one of our high school girls showed and won multiple  trophies with about 28 rabbits last year at state fair. She sold most of them before leaving and come home with enough money to put around 2500.00 dollars in her college fund.

So this sent me on the hunt for a pure bred version of a Sable rabbit. Taking my family on a car trip to southern Pennsylvania .On Christopher’s birthday we purchased another Buck and attended our first rabbit show. I had a wonderful time and could hardly contain my happiness about seeing so many wonderful animals. We were able to pick up our new bunny who was huge at the same age as Ratchet. We named him Diesel.

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher has really enjoyed  playing with, feeding and holding his first real pets. It has been a good investment of time and money to teach him about the love of animals.

walking rabbits on leashes

walking rabbits on leashes

One of the ways we get to spend time with the rabbits and get them some exercise is to walk them around our yard on nice days. It is hard to believe that only 9 months ago the rabbit in the blue harness fit in the palm of my hand. Ratchet  is now about 6 pounds and Diesel in the red harness is about 8 pounds. Both are of breeding age and ready to move into the show ring and start paying their way in the homesteading world. We are now in the process of finding a nice Doe to add to our growing rabbitry. This may take another trip to Pennsylvania because we have found no breeders in our local area.  The next project on our property is to add a large out-door shelter that will house all of our adult rabbits and an areas for three sets of kits. This will be an addition to a shed that we already have and will be semi enclosed. I hope to get started on it within a month. In the mean time we entertain our neighbors and friends with our walks and we enjoy bringing the boys inside for fun and family time.

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash.

There is a far amount or work keeping and raising any animal. Rabbits do have individual personalities and not every one is great for a young person like Christopher who is now 5. Ratchet is the type that loves attention and being held. He will fallow any one around the house from room to room wanting noting more than a rub or pat. He is also more active and loves to run and jump. Where as, his buddy who is a pure bred Sable is shy and lazy. Making him harder to handle but he would rather sit quietly when put down making a real nice confirmation  animal.I believe that Christopher will be more confident with Ratchet this year but in time will enjoy both.

We have our first ” Stock Man” class in a couple of weeks where the rules or care and showing animals at the fairs is gone over. It is an important step for both parents and children, sportsman ship is held to a higher standard than the quality of the animal at every 4-h event. This class covers cheating, animal abuse, animal neglect, feeding and health care and general sportsman ship. It is the basis for a wonderful future in 4-H. I am so lucky that Christopher will be learning these lessons so early and in such a supportive way. We can all agree that teaching a child about the needs of others, including animals, how to play fair and the importance of being a good loser are lessons that build a well-rounded child and a better adult.

But in the end their really is nothing quite as wonderful as an Easter bunny.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday !

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Categories: 4-H, bredding rabbits, Easter, rabbits, State Fair | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Kids Getting to Much Easter Candy? How to use it up.

Easter bunny candy

Easter bunny candy photo credit to www.health.com

      One of my Pet Peeves in this life is people giving my children candy all the time. I even dislike getting candy from stores,banks and even Grandma. I know this makes me the “MEAN” mom… The one who says no to a lot of free junk food, but I feel it is my job to watch out for my family and their teeth. I come from a family with genetically soft teeth. We don’t get cancer or strokes, we just suffer from cavities on huge scale. Even with proper dental care my siblings and children just have more overall oral health problems then most. 

    When Easter rolls around I cringe at the thought of all those chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and Peeps. I have over the years tossed out thousands of dollars of candy given to my two sons as gifts. This year was unusually bad when it came to chocolate.  My younger son received around 3 pounds of chocolate in the form of bunnies, crosses and M&Ms. This does not include the Ring Pops,Gummy Bears, the malted eggs or Peeps found in his baskets. People, theirs a limit to how much candy a four-year old should eat.

    So after receiving  all that chocolate, I just started freezing it. I knew that at some point it could be used later. This Mothers Day seemed like a good time use up some of my hidden stash. Christopher and I made chocolate chunk cookies for the holiday and with the help of 6 adults and 2 kids we all enjoyed the chocolate.

                                                           I have named these cookies  “Easter Chunk Cookies”.

cooling Easter Chunk Cookies

cooling Easter Chunk Cookies

  

My recipe comes from the “Better Homes and Gardens” New Cook Book of 1981 and 1992 publication, page# 128. Gather all the ingredients and begin to warm the chocolate if frozen.

everything except chocolet

everything except chocolate

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 I have to admit that I make cookies all in one bowl just like my mother, so my photos of the process may appear backward to what is the “Correct” way to add ingredients to the mix. Mom,I make them just the way that you taught me.

creamed sugar butter and adding eggs

creamed sugar butter and adding eggs

 

    Frist into the bowl is butter and shortening at room temp, then the white and brown sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy. I then add eggs and vanilla and salt cream them into butter mixture. I then add 1 cup of flour and mix, then baking soda  and then the rest of flour and mix well . Then I add the chocolate, nuts and candy.

chopping up chocolet

chopping up chocolate

chopped up Easter candy and mini M&Ms

As you can see above the chocolate Crosses are thin and even with three they only produced about a cup of chunks. So, I added more left over candy, in this case mini M&Ms from Christmas.  The two together made about a 1  1/2 cups of chocolate and then added a cup of chopped nuts to the batter. 

everything combined and ready to drop on cookie sheet

everything combined and ready to drop on cookie sheet

I dropped a tablespoon of mixture on a cookie sheet and baked them at 375, for about 10 minutes about 2 inches apart. The dough is soft and chewy in the middle but crispy and lightly brown on the bottom. We ended up with about 2 1/2 dozen cookies and I spent nothing for any of the chocolate and that saved me about 4 dollars on one batch.

I still have about 1 and 1/2 pounds of left over chocolate in the freezer and a huge bag of jellybeans. So more ideas to  come.

Here is the ingredients  for my “Easter Chunk Cookies”.

2 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup Crisco shortening

1  cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks and or colored mini M&Ms

1 cup chopped nuts.

I hope that the next Easter candy recipe that I post is for Jelly Beans and what to do with 2 pounds of them. Maybe by July, I will have used most of them up and shared them a  company picnic or some other large group gathering.

Categories: candy, Chocolate, Easter, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

7 long years I waited for this bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon

this is my ambassitor bottle with my name on the bottle

this is my ambassador bottle with my name on the label

The story of this bottle started almost 7 years ago in Lexington, Ky at the Kentucky Horse shoeing school over Fathers Day weekend.  Although I am not much of a drinker I do like to have a little spirits around for cooking and celebrations. Tom on the other hand has been a whiskey and bourbon fan most of his life.So, while  attending Farrier school in Lexington,Tom found out the locations of several of the local distilleries and asked us to join him on a tour while Cody and I visited.

From Lexington we traveled about an hour south to the small town of Loretto, Ky.  Off  in the middle of no where  sits one of the worlds best Bourbon distilleries. It is hard to find but worth every effort to find it. Maker’s Mark is known as “Top Shelf Bourbon” meaning top of the line and its grounds and tours reflect this effort to produce the best of the best. It is one of the most beautiful historic places I have ever visited.  Tom and I became ambassadors to the distillery on the visit and pledged to share our love of Mark’s Mark  with the people we knew and talked to. Included in our ambassador package was the ability to put our names on a barrel ( on a Brass Plate) and fallow that barrel through the whole process of creation and finally 6 to 7 years later come back and pickup a bottle or two of the aged bourbon that was in that barrel. At the time it was just one of the many perks to the ambassador program but was so far off in the future that I never imagined us back at the distillery getting those bottles.

Ticket sent from Marker's Mark announceing our bottles were ready to pick up

Ticket sent from Marker’s Mark announcing our bottles were ready to pick up

Well that all changed when  Maker’s Mark sent  us notification that our barrel had aged and been taste tested and was in the bottling process. They informed us that  we  could pick up our bottles for a few months this year, April-Sept and the remainder of the barrels would be bottled and sold with the regular bourbon.When I looked at the dates that the bottles were available, I was in shock and over joyed,April 1st 2013 was the frist day that the bottles were available and this is my oldest sons birthday.This date was also  just days after Toms 49th birthday and ended with Easter too. Our trip plans incorporated  all of these events and I was ready to head back to Kentucky and get my hands on bottle of bourbon that was waiting in a barrel all those years for me.

The Printing Houe of Maker's Mark and a sampleof the look of all the produceing buildings

The Printing House of Maker’s Mark and a sample of the look of all the buildings

racks of aging barrels of Maker's Mark bourbon

racks of aging barrels of Maker’s Mark bourbon

This time Cody and Jamie (my daughter-in-Law) were both of age so a family trip just seemed in order. We made our reservations and plans and headed to Bardstown,Ky for a long weekend. It turned out that if you like Whiskey, Bourbon or Scotch, Bardstown is the place to be. Bardstown is located in the middle of Bourbon country, near distilleries for Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Four Roses, Maker’s Mark and others. It was just 16 miles to our destination and  we were able to see the towering aging sheds of many distilleries along the drive. Those 5 and 6 story sheds just appear out of  fields all around the Bardstown area. At a sharp turn in the small country road you enter the Makers Mark property. Visitors arrive at the   Gate House, Toll Gate and the beautiful Tobacco barn. All that appear to take you back in time to the early 1800’s. The grounds of Maker’s Mark are also on the National Register of Historic Places, including the “Quart House” the oldest liquor store in the US.

oldest liguare store in US ... also has a drive up window for wagons and later cars

oldest liquor store in US … also has a drive up window for wagons and later cars

 

 

The Gate House handled security for the distillery in the 1800’s and now houses a nice little cafe the serves southern pulled pork BB-Q and slaw…. you will never see BB-Q with out slaw in the south. The food was great  and a beautiful place to eat on a sunny afternoon.  The tour then leads you from building to building showing visitors every step in the process from crushing the corn to the fermentation tanks to the beautiful and over sized copper stills… (  sadly that picture did not turn out). To the tasting rooms and finally the gift shop and dipping area.  The grounds are open for photography and you are able to roam the grounds as long as you please.

Fermentation tank with corn wheat and barley

Fermentation tank with corn wheat and barley

Gate house ... with barn and toll gate

Gate house … with barn and toll gate

The Cyprus tanks pictures above are 12 feet deep and several hundred years old and are still in use everyday. Maker’s Mark allows visitors to taste the ageing mash and it is remarkably sweet and reminds me of Sugar Corn Pops. The above photo is of the frist stage of fermentation where the yeast is bubbling away the sugars in the corn, wheat and barley. This part of the tour is my favorite and this time I got to see one of the tanks empty and was really surprised with what 300 gallons in a 12 foot tank really looks like.

Before Tom and I picked up our bottles we enjoyed the tour tasting  and eventually dipped our bottles in the famous red wax that is a company trade mark. This was the highlight of the tour and they did not have the tasting room on our last visit. Here we got samples of the whole process. From 130 proof  “WhiteDog”… or in other words …”Moonshine”  that is not aged at all, just pure grain alcohol to regular Marker’s Mark bourbon  90 proof, then an over aged all most to flavorful whiskey that is not very palatable, to the best of the best Marker’s Mark 46 110 proof, a new and very tasty addition to the Maker’s Mark family.

tasting glasses full from left to right.. Moonshine( whitedog) Maker's mark , over aged bourbon. Maker's Mark 46

tasting glasses full from left to right.. Moonshine( whitedog) Maker’s mark , over aged bourbon. Maker’s Mark 46

The photos that fallow are of the bottling process and photos of us dipping our own bottles of Markers Mark.

4 workers dip the red wax tops on the "46" bottles

4 workers dip the red wax tops on the “46” bottles

bottles of "46" getting filled

bottles of “46” getting filled

 

Me with my two bottles of Makers Mark... waited a long time to these

Me with my two bottles of Makers Mark… waited a long time for these.

 

 

 

This trip to Markers Mark was  better than I had remembered it.  The tasting room addition  is great. When we originally visited  Maker’s Mark the distillery was in  a dry county… NO liquors allowed  at public places. For  over 100 years of their production no one could get a taste until they left the distillery grounds. The law recently changed and  the free tasting added if you are over 21 with a current ID. The tour is a great historical look back and very educational for anyone wondering about this areas traditions of Bourbon, Whiskey and Moonshine making.

Tom and Cody after dipping a few bottles of Makers Mark

Tom and Cody after dipping a few bottles of Makers Mark

I hope that if any of you are in Kentucky, you stop at your favorite distilleries and enjoy some of the history and love!  I found  waiting those seven years to come back and enjoy Maker’s Mark again worth every minute.

Jolynn Jamie and Christopher and Paige at Maker's Mark

Jolynn Jamie and Christopher and Paige at Maker’s Mark

Categories: Easter, family fun, fermentation, Kentucky, Maker's Mark, Travel | Tags: , , , | 25 Comments

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