Friday, November 21, 2014

Soup for breakfast? Absolutely!

I don't know what made me think of it - maybe it was the big butternut squash sitting on my counter right from my friend Reeny's garden - but it occurred to me that a thick creamy soup could be just the thing to start out a cold wintry day, in lieu of our usual fresh fruit.  With the early snowfall still on the ground, today seemed like a good day to test my theory on guests.  (Dominique was skeptical.)

I used my usual recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, tossing in lots of dried sage and thyme.  I cooked it up the night before, then reheated it and mushed it with my immersion blender.  I served it in smallish bowls (I wasn't that confident, either) with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of tiny homemade croutons.
I'm not a food photographer so I don't know if this picture looks good or gross, but it was absolutely delicious.  Everyone but the 12-year-old said so (chocolate chip pancakes and hot chocolate for him!) and the empty bowls said that they weren't just being polite.  Once breakfast was over we got to taste it, too, and I have to say, it was great.  Although it's creamy and rich-tasting, apart from the sour cream it's just vegetables, water, and herbs.

With Dominique's retirement really and truly in sight, we're looking forward to more experimentation and with luck they'll all turn out as well as this one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Dawn of a new era

Back in January, we introduced our housekeeper, Jessica.  Jessie was wonderful but unfortunately had to contend with difficult family issues that prevented her from continuing to work with us.  After an exhaustive search, we hired the smiling and ebullient Dawn Pruitt.  Mother of 6 children, she is lovely, personable, and hard working.  Although we were sad to say goodbye to Jessie, we have certainly found a wonderful replacement in Dawn.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Forgotten Skills with...Tomatoes!

Several years ago Dominique bought a book by an Irish cook and writer called Forgotten Skills.  As suggested by the title, it's about certain lost or at least wandering aimlessly cooking arts, like canning, bread making, and pickling.

We're a little bit intimidated by this book but a week or so ago I bought a bushel of tomatoes from the Amish farmer who supplies our herd share products.  Not knowing exactly what a bushel looked like, I almost left the farm with only one of these big boxes.  Fortunately (?), someone set me straight and I took them both home with me.

Now what?  Keep in mind, I don't even really like tomatoes that much, although a sliced heirloom with fresh mozzarella and basil is wonderfully cool, juicy and delicious for a summer lunch.  And we did serve up a few this way.

For the rest, I turned to Forgotten Skills and put them up in 2 ways.  First and easiest is halving or quartering them and slow-roasting them in the oven.  Her recipe calls for 100 degrees for 5-6 hours, but my oven felt only tepid at that temperature and I cranked it to 250.  We've been serving these roasted tomatoes as a side for breakfast and our guests seem to be loving them.

Another way to dispatch lots of tomatoes is to make tomato paste.  Tomato preparation is nearly identical to roasting:  clean, core, and quarter.  Before dumping them all into a big pot, you cut a few onions and give them a little warm up in some oil.  Then you let the whole thing cook for a very long time until it's as thick as you want it to be.  Forgotten Skills calls for a food mill to mush it up but we don't have one and I thought the immersion blender did a fine job.  Our paste isn't nearly as thick as that which you get in those tiny cans but it's so flavorful and has a wonderful texture.

I made a final batch of roasted tomatoes today and about halfway through the cooking I needed to bake a loaf of banana bread for an hour so I just turned up the heat and put it in with the tomatoes.  They look ever-so-slightly burnt around the edges and drier than the previous batch.  I have a feeling they're going to be even better and more flavorful.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Good times at Riverdog

I can't get over how lucky we are to have the Riverdog venue just outside of Oberlin!  Not only do we have the good fortune to be friends with the owners, Deborah and Terry :-) , but their concerts are without fail of the highest quality and a ton of fun.  Woody Pines and his band was no exception last night and got us on our feet for some great roots music.  It was the first really chilly night we've had in the coming fall season - although it wasn't too bad in the barn - and there's no better way to warm up than by dancing.

Of course we love seeing lots of our friends there, but it was also great to see new faces and especially the crowd of Oberlin College students that came.  I guess they were there to support their friends, Sweet Potato Spoon, who opened for Woody Pines, but I hope they'll come back for more concerts - their enthusiasm was infectious, to say the least!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Brave Dominique takes the ice bucket challenge

Nominated by our Welsh friend Simon Goldsworthy, Dominique was inspired to take the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness - and funds - for ALS research.  What better place to do it than at a rollicking concert at our friends' Deborah Banyas and Terry Speers' Riverdog Retreat

Sandwiched between the opening acts of Emily Keener and duo Andru Bemis and Tom Brosseau, Terry did the honors and dumped the first bucket of icy water over Dom's head in front of 200 witnesses who had come for the concert.  Admittedly the ice had rather melted, but as you can see, the water was plenty cold!  Janet had prepared a second bucket for good measure.  All in good fun and all for a good cause.

Dominique nominated his son Mathieu, his brothers-in-law Kirk Bierman and Dan Dickerson, and also our Oberlin friend Bill County to carry on the trend.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July: Lorain rocks, Oberlin...not so much

The Buckeye and the Frog and some of our friends are boycotting Oberlin's fireworks because, for the second year in a row, they were held on July 3.  What is the point of fireworks on July 3?!?!  Makes no sense and please don't talk to me about firefighter overtime.  You either do it on the 4th or you don't do it at all.

So a group of us headed up to Lake Erie in Lorain and spread our picnic out on the beach behind the Rose Cafe in Lakeview Park.  A better place to watch fireworks simply cannot be imagined.  The evening was warm and breezy, the sand was soft and cool.  Lake Erie sparkled in front of us as the sun dropped from the sky.  All around people were spreading out blankets, kids were playing football and frisbee.  To the west we could see 5 or 6 different fireworks, from Vermilion to Cedar Point.  At 10, the fireworks at Black River Landing started and they were magnificent!  Each volley was like a finale and the finale went on forever!

Deborah Banyas, Nancy Gray, Terry Speer, the Buckeye, Reeny Annable, Jon Rice
This is where we'll be going every year, at least until Oberlin recognizes that this is a Fourth of July celebration.

The hour-long drive home was not exactly the perfect way to end the evening, so next year we'll get some ice cream at the Cafe and wait for the crowds to clear.
Reeny Annable, Jon Rice
the Buckeye, Nancy Gray

Lake Erie or, as the Frog calls it, la mer

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Music music everywhere!

With one of the most prestigious conservatories in the country, you would expect Oberlin to have great music.  But musical events go well beyond the academic schedule of the College and Conservatory.  One of the best things about summer in Oberlin is the many concerts on the bandstand in Tappan Square.  This one featured my friend and guitar/keyboard teacher, Kevin Jones, and his band The Scrooges.  They did a lot of great old songs and even got one couple on their feet to dance.
Kevin and Marcia Jones
 The Scrooges played as a wrap up to the popular Chalk on the Walk event, but there are concerts almost every Friday night throughout the summer with all different kinds of music.
Nancy Gray and the Buckeye

Unfortunately, it seems to be feast or famine here and that night we had another concert to go to at our friends' Riverdog Retreat, with Oberlin's own Soul Proprioters followed by the unofficial duo of Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Dave Boutette.  If we had to cut out early from Kevin's group, at least it was for something as amazing as the show we headed to.  The jam at the end was really special and I don't think anyone wanted the evening and the music to end.  Anybody coming to Oberlin should really check out the Music at Riverdog Facebook page to see if there's a concert scheduled.
Soul Proprioters, the Buckeye
Dave Parsh, "Madcat" Ruth, Brad Conklin, Jakob Faber

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

World's Cutest Little Egg

At this point in our chicken-raising careers we have seen a lot of eggs.  But we have never seen one this small!!

We think it came from our German Spitzhauben, whom we call Kaiser Wilhelmina, only because she's the smallest of the 3 younger chickens and seems more immature.  Goofy, even.  We can't really tell because all 3 of them lay white eggs with a pinkish/tan cast.

We were just amazed by this tiny egg and haven't brought ourselves to cook it yet.  It won't even make a mouthful!  Of course, it might be just right for me since I don't like eggs all that well.

For now, we're keeping it in the basket with our rotating collection of tan, white, and green eggs - our kitchen still life.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Introducing...Jessica Burns, our new housekeeper!

After an exhaustive search via craigslist and having conducted many interviews, we are so pleased to have found Jessica Burns to take charge of the housekeeping duties at the B&F.  Also the head grower at the George Jones Memorial Farm, she really impressed us with her flexibility and enthusiasm.  We, on the other hand, are looking forward to spending more time doing things to add value to the B&B in terms of trying new recipes, doing maintenance and improvement projects, and expanding our guest offerings in amenities, recommendations, etc.  We plan to start making buckeye candies again!  We will also be able to devote more time to the product side of the business.  Hopefully this will be a win-win for all of us.

Welcome, Jessica!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bread and Butter

After searching for a year or more, we finally subscribed to an Ohio "herd share" in order to be able to have raw milk (thank you, Paula and Kim!).  We now own a small portion of the cows on Log Cabin Farm run by the Yoders in Apple Creek from whom we get milk, cream, and yogourt.

We mainly wanted the milk so that we could make cultured butter after reading about it in a NY Times article.  We left our first gallon of milk out on the counter overnight to let the cream rise to the top, then realized that the cream had already been skimmed off.  Oops.  Milk turned a little sour,  not so good for drinking but just fine for making bread, and it led us to discover a fantastic and ridiculously fast and easy soda bread recipe in our "Forgotten Skills" cookbook.

The following week we ordered a pint of cream.  It was unbelievably thick and luscious, so much so that when we made butter, there was absolutely no buttermilk and no kneading required.  It was delicious.

We ordered another pint this week but this cream was a little more liquidy (is that a word?).  We put it in the food processor and "churned" it for maybe 3 minutes.  Voila! a big lump of butter in a puddle of buttermilk.  We kneaded the butter to get all the milk out, which took about 10 minutes.

It was fun to do by hand but it's easy to see why butter paddles might be useful.  Unfortunately, we forgot to add salt so we had to knead it a second time.

In the end, we had a crusty but light-crumbed soda bread, about a pound of the best-tasting butter ever, and a small glass of buttermilk.  What a breakfast!

Next stop:  an antique store to find butter molds!  But note the pretty butter dish that we recently inherited from Dominique's mother.

Improvements:  a tad less salt.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Big Freeze

Yesterday Cleveland experienced its coldest Jan. 7 since 1884 - minus 11 degrees.  Frozen water everywhere:
frozen reservoir
azalea icicles

Sunny at the reservoir
At least someone likes the cold.

Here at the Buckeye and the Frog it's been 30 hours and counting with no running water.  We had a small trickle when we got up yesterday morning and, had we any sense at all, we would have kept the faucets open.  Unfortunately, we didn't, and soon after the water stopped.  We are literally melting snow to be able to flush the toilets and give water to the chickens and Sunny. 
We almost fought over a cup of water slowly being formed in our Brita from ice cubes.  This morning I felt like a homeless person, plotting my route downtown to include the library in order to wash my hands!  Maybe the worst problem is the pile of dishes mounting in the sink.

Of course, it could have been worse:  it could have happened last week when our kids were still here; we could be having guests; and my mom could live somewhere other than around the corner where we will be heading later for showers and probably some buckets of water.  Still, this is no fun at all.

The plumber has been called - twice - and with luck will make his way to us today.