Mom’s Best Wild Rice

Wild rice is one of my favorite foods. My kids are always asking me how to cook it so I decided to post my recipe on this blog. The problem is, most people will follow the directions on the package, and then (in my opinion) your rice will be brown in color and taste, well, kind of dirty. This method takes more time and patience, but you will get a much better looking and tasting rice!

Place rice in pot and add enough cold water to cover the rice by an inch. Bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes, or until water is murky. Do not let water get brown. This will depend on how clean your rice is.

Murky water

Murky water

After 5 minutes or so, pour out the water and rinse rice with cold water, agitate with your fingers to knock down floating rice and to bring out the ickies/debris. Rinse until water is clear. Add cold water, this time to cover rice by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Rinse rice again in the same manner as above. After the second rinse add one tablespoon salt. You probably won’t need to add salt to the water after this. Do this four or five times until the rice starts to pop, it will look a little blue and brown.

Not quite ready

Not quite ready

Rinse again. When the rice looks almost done and is still a little al dente, pour out most of the water and place on stove, covered, on lowest heat. Stir occasionally until all water has evaporated. (This goes pretty fast, 5 minutes.) Turn off heat, cover and let stand on warm burner until rice dries a bit. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste. You can add some sautéed onion, celery and mushrooms to the rice if you like. I do that and then stuff the turkey with the rice for extra numminess.

Last rinse

Last rinse

 Most important, don’t let the water get too murky brown. This will make the rice turn brown, and it will taste more earthy, kind of like the smell when cooking. It is better to rinse more often then to cook it in dirty water. DO NOT follow the directions on the package; this is the kiss of death for your rice!

Ready to steam!

Ready to steam!

I rinsed and simmered the rice four times before the last simmer; 5 simmers in all. You may need more or less depending on how clean your rice is. On the last simmer, add at least 4 inches of water over the rice. One cup dry rice equals 4 cups cooked rice.

Done! Mange.

Done! Mange.

Water is gone; rice done!

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Knitting up a Storm

What a long winter this has been! We’ve had record cold and record snowfall this year. What’s a girl to do but knit?

Searching for inspiration.

Searching for inspiration.

I’ve been told that once you reach 45 years, your body tolerates 1 degree less every year after. I used to ski when it was -5 F. Now I knit. I recently finished a baby sweater for a friend who is expecting. It is an Elizabeth Zimmerman (EZ) pattern, the Baby Surplice Jacket. EZ pioneered a knitting method where you knit a swatch, count your stitches, measure what you are planning to knit, and do the math to fit your gauge. And she has designed many wonderful seamless baby sweaters using garter stitch which is stretchy, warm and grows with your baby.

Baby Surplice Jacket.

Baby Surplice Sweater.

As of April 30, we have received 123 inches of snow in Northwest Wisconsin. This record snowfall shattered the previous record of 107 inches. I often said to myself “Too cold to ski today. Tomorrow it supposed to be 17, so I will ski tomorrow,” only to find it snows all day tomorrow, and temps are below zero the next day. So I continue to knit.

One of my favorite projects was the Blooming Flowers mitten pattern I found on Ravelry.com, a fantastic knitting forum. I downloaded the free pattern, only to find it was written in Swedish. So I copied and pasted it into Google Translate (who knew there was such a thing!) It gave me a sketchy but somewhat discernible idea of where to begin. Who knew that the Swedes knit in laps instead of rounds and used sticks instead of needles!

Blooming Flowers mittens.

Blooming Flowers mittens.

Today is May 4th, and snow still lingers in the yard. I have managed to stay healthy all winter, but today the sun is shining, it is warm, and I am sick with some sort of spring crud. So I continue to knit. There are other things I should do, like clean the house, grocery shopping, homework. But I don’t feel good, so I think I’ll knit.

Knitted and felted slippers.

Knitted and felted slippers.

Booties from vintage 1950s Patons pattern.

Booties from vintage 1950s Patons pattern.

I’ve been gone, gone, gone!

Wow, I’ve been gone a long time. Suffice it to say I’ve had a really busy summer. I had an internship in our county’s Land Records office. I am working on my M.S. in Geographic Information Systems/Remote Sensing. And I’ve been making bread. Lot’s of bread!

Rosemary Garlic Sourdough

Rosemary Garlic Sourdough

I finished the oven!

Little Muffintop

Little Muffintop

And I started a business!

It's a real bakery!

It’s a real bakery!

So I’ve been a little busy. But now things are starting to slow down. I have a little more time on my hands. I’ve had some time to knit and cook. Last night, my best friend Patti came over for dinner. We made a Stromboli in the oven and drank a little too much red wine. Sunday (yesterday) was the first day of daylight savings time (or was it the last?) we fired up the oven, and it became dark early. First, we roasted coffee.

Fresh roasted coffee.

Fresh roasted coffee.

Then we baked bread.

Sourdough

Sourdough

Then we baked the Stromboli.

Stromboli!

Stromboli!

And we did all this in the dark. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention how Patti cut her nose when she put on the headlamp! Careful there Patti! She snapped the lamp onto her nose, and she was bleeding. Profusely. Ok, not really profusely. But David had to put a Band-Aid on her!

Ouch!

Ouch!

Spring, Finally!

Just a few days ago, there was more than 2 feet of snow in the yard. David and I woke up to 6 inches of fresh, heavy snow, then a few days later, 10 inches more! It was late April and we were beginning to think winter would never end. It looked like this:

Beautifully depressing.

Beautifully depressing.

Watching the weather, we learned that on Friday the temperatures would soar into the 70s! I sat on the deck in my warm, brown metal chair listening to the sounds of the snow melting. I thought about all that snow, melting and rushing downstream. More snow than we have had on the ground at once in a long time, and it would melt rapidly, perhaps causing flooding. Perfect conditions to do the Waterfall tour!

So Dani (my ski/bike buddy) and I headed out on another adventure. Of course, we bit off more than we could chew. We planned on 5 different streams with falls, but only made it to two. It didn’t matter, we’ll get to the others another day. We drove to far Northern Wisconsin to our first stop. I will incriminate myself; we trespassed. Any good geo-girl knows sometimes that happens, some of the best waterfalls have hydroelectric dams which means, if you want to see the beauty, you must trespass. So we walked around the gate, clutching the fence so we wouldn’t fall down the steep, tree laden embankment to the rushing river below. And it was extremely steep, the type that if you slip, you die. Hence the fence! Then down 133 slippery stairs; don’t do this if you’re afraid of heights! But the result was well worth the danger. On the bridge, the roar of the falls was deafening. The spray was in our face, even though the falls were plenty far away. I have been to this spot three or four times, after heavy rains, but never have I seen energy like this.

Saxon Falls

Saxon Falls

We stood on the bridge silently for several minutes, then headed back up the stairs. When we reached the top, legs quivering, 4 cars of young men arrive, some with kayaks. We made our way around the precarious steep slope clinging to the fence. After our hello’s, one young man walks over and opens the gate to the steps. What? You mean that padlock wasn’t locked? Well, whatever. On to the next falls!

Black River Scenic Byway

Black River Scenic Byway

We drove another 30 miles east to Bessemer, MI. This area gets copious amounts of lake-effect snow from the open waters of Lake Superior. The first trail at the Conglomerate Falls parking area was full, so on to the next! We were certain we wouldn’t be the only ones crazy enough to tromp through snow and ice to witness bankfull and flood-stage waterfalls! It was amazing to be standing on top of 12 inches of snow in the woods, and have a *very warm* 70+ degree breeze flow over your body. We could hear the thunder of the falls from the parking lot, but first had to hike through the unplowed lot to get there. The snow was pretty stiff, but occasionally, your foot would break through and sink a foot or two! But what a reward when we finally got there! Absolutely awesome.

Gorge Falls

Gorge Falls

Potawatomi Falls

Potawatomi Falls

Winter, Spring or Fajitas?

I’m conflicted. I haven’t posted anything for a long time, I’ve been outside enjoying winter. I’ve been skiing on the Birkie trail, going for snowy hikes, and just plain enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve had since the cold snap ended. So, I’m conflicted. I am not quite ready for winter to end, and yet, I can’t wait for the snow to melt and winter loosen its icy grip on the Northland. I write this as I constantly monitor Weatherunderground, hoping the snowstorm hits us, hoping the snowstorm misses us! I want to ski tomorrow, the trails are lovely and the only people out are locals. This I write, as I sip my raspberry margarita, dreaming of lying on the beach and listening to the waves of Gitchee Gumee.  

Delicious and refreshing!

Delicious and refreshing!

I’ve been barbecuing quite a bit, too! I’ve kept the deck cleanly shoveled and the BBQ area, too. Tonight, we are having fajitas (hence the margarita)and I am going to make them on the grill. Let’s start with the marinade!

Chequamegongirl’s Fajitas and Marinade

1/4 cup Olive oil
1 Lime, juiced
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 t Cumin
Salt and pepper
1 Flank Steak
1 Large onion
1 or 2 Red, green or yellow peppers
1 Package tortillas, I like the small ones.

Marinades tenderize the meat and add flavor.

Marinades tenderize the meat and add flavor.

Mix the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and pour it into a large gallon-sized zip lock bag. If you are going to BBQ on the grill, leave your Flank steak whole. If you’re going to cook it on the stove, slice 1/4 inch strips on the diagonal, then put the meat in the baggie with the marinade for at least one hour before you plan to cook. Slice the peppers and onion into strips.

Flank steak getting happy!

Flank steak getting happy!

If you’re cooking your steak on the stove, cook on medium-high heat until the pink is gone. Remove the meat and place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or foil. Then add the peppers and onions to the pan and cook until wilted but still slightly crunchy. Add the meat back in to reheat. Heat your tortillas right on the stove or microwave. I like my fajitas with a little sour cream and Cholula.

Wow that looks great!

Wow that looks great!

If you’re cooking on the grill, I just take my cast iron pan with a little olive oil in it and sauté the peppers and onion while the steak cooks, the peppers probably take a little longer so start them first.

Peppers done, steak still cooking!

Peppers done, steak still cooking!

Time to eat! Remember to slice the Flank steak on the diagonal or it will be tough. And I still haven’t decided, and it’s snowing again! Winter or spring?

Really good eats!

Really good eats!

Chicken Noodle Soup

We’ve had quite the cold snap here in Northwestern Wisconsin, the temperature has been hovering in the -10F range for the past four days in a row! Today it’s a little warmer, 11 degrees, but the wind chill is harsh, so I haven’t left the house. Except this morning, we were out of coffee! What have you been doing all these days then, you ask? I’ve been on a baking frenzy! Yesterday I made biscotti, the day before that I made doggie biscuits! Today I am going to make chicken noodle soup. 

Now, there was a day when I couldn’t make chicken noodle soup with out store bought stock. But since I built my brick oven (chicken cooks up fantastic in it!) and with some patience, I think my soup is pretty good. And here is one of the best tips I could give anyone regarding cooking: When you buy chicken, always buy it whole. Consider this, you can buy a couple small chicken breasts at the market for about $7, or you can buy a whole chicken for about $7. I get roughly three meals out of one chicken. Baked chicken for dinner, chicken salad or sandwich for lunch and some sort of chicken soup. You just need to teach yourself how to cut the chicken up, I did, and it’s really easy. All you need is a sharp knife. There are a bunch you-tube videos out there, here is a great example! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW5BFvCmV7k 

 

Everything but the kitchen sink!

Can’t you just smell it?


Chequamegongirl’s Chicken Soup

2 Chicken carcasses
4 Carrots, peeled
5 Celery stalks
1 Onion (we’re going to use the peel, root and top for the stock)
Egg noodles
2 Bay leaves
1/2 t Turmeric
1/2 t Basil
1/4 t Pepper
Parsley, chopped fresh for garnish

Put the chicken carcasses, the carrot peels and ends, the onion peel, root and top, 1 celery stalk cut in two pieces, bay leaves, turmeric and pepper into a stock pot and cover with water. If I have leftover fresh herbs, they go in the pot. Put the heat on medium-high, and as soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat down so you have a nice simmer, about low. At this point, forget about your soup. That will be hard though, it smells so good! I usually let my soup simmer for 4-5 hours, and I don’t plan on eating the soup for dinner the same night! But it can be done, just start early! Next, chop up the carrots, celery and onion. Put it all together in a bowl, covered and set it in the fridge.

The French call it mirapoix, I call it celery, onion and carrot!

The French call it mirapoix, I call it celery, onion and carrot!


When 4-5 hours has gone by or you like the taste of your stock, strain the broth through a colander into another pot or bowl that it will easily fit into. When that is done, you want to remove the fat. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can set it outside if you live in a cold area like me, or put it in the fridge and let it cool completely. Take your cold stock and with a large spoon, scrape off the solidified fat. I don’t compost fat; we have bears here in the great north woods! I put it in the trash. If you don’t have time to wait, strain it again (when it’s cooled off a bit) through some cheesecloth. Or clean nylons work good, too. Maybe you have one of those funky fat-removing measuring cups, they work great! Pick through the bones when they’ve cooled and remove any meat, add it to the stock. Put the stock back in the pot and reheat, add the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, then throw in a few handfuls of egg noodles. It should be ready in 15 minutes. Correct the seasonings and add some fresh chopped parsley for garnish, it’s pretty and adds great flavor. Serve your soup with a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich or salad. Manga!
Manga!

Manga!

Soap

Usually in the fall I work on Christmas gifts for my friends and family. I’m a little late this year (like usual) and I’m working on them now. Better late than never, I say. So the other day I made soap. I really like this recipe. It lathers nicely and is very mild. I have gotten many compliments on it.

First, I had to decide what fragrance. I pulled out all my little bottles of smelly stuff, 1 clove, 1 juniper, 1 bay, 3 cinnamon and 5 peppermint! Rosemary peppermint is my favorite but no Rosemary. Plain peppermint? Nope. Cinnamon? Not feeling that. Juniper bay? Oddly enough, when I took the caps off and smelled them together, it worked!

Fragrance choices.

Little bottles of smelly stuff.

If you’re going to make soap, you must have a scale. I cannot over emphasize the importance of this except to tell you how many times I have made soap that hasn’t turned out right, and olive oil and coconut oil are not cheap. I bought my scale at Wal-Mart, it cost about $20. Here is my recipe.

Chequamegongirl’s Cold-Process Soap
20 ounces olive oil
20 ounces vegetable shortening
12 ounces coconut oil (for lather)
16 ounces cold water
6 ounces sodium hydroxide (lye)
1 ounce beeswax
Essential oil (fragrance)

Before you begin, a word about lye. Lye is very caustic, and must be handled carefully. If used properly, there will be no problems, but remember that lye mixed with water will burn your skin on contact and it is very corrosive. Be sure to work slowly and carefully.

You will need 2 candy thermometers, a glass, stainless or enameled cast iron pot, 2 cup glass measuring cup (or a beaker), safety glasses, gloves, and some sort of mold to put your soap in. I have a soap box, but you could use a heavy-duty cardboard box. Line the box with saran, I use the press and seal stuff; it is much easier to work with.
Weigh the oils and put them in the pan and melt them over medium-high heat. Add the beeswax when the oil has melted.

The beginning of something great!

The beginning of something great!

Measure the water (you don’t need to weigh this) in the glass measuring cup. Weigh the lye and carefully pour it into the measuring cup. You should wear glasses and gloves when doing this. Also, do it near the stove and turn on the exhaust fan so the fumes don’t bother you. If you don’t have an exhaust fan, stand as far away as possible when doing this. Gently and slowly stir the lye/water mixture. Only touch the handle of the measuring cup, adding lye to water will produce a chemical reaction and the temperature of the mix will rise rapidly. Stop stirring when the lye has dissolved. Rinse off the spoon before placing it anywhere! Place one of the thermometers in the measuring cup.

Use caution with the lye/water mixture!

Use caution with the lye/water mixture!

When the oils have melted, take the pan off the burner and place it on a trivet or a cool burner. Place a thermometer in the pan and secure it to the side. When both the oil and the lye/water mix cool to 97-99 degrees, pour the water mixture into the oil and stir. It should saponify immediately. Sometimes your oils and water/lye mix don’t cool at the same rate. You may need to re-warm in a hot water bath or cool in a cold water bath to have them both at 97-99 degrees. Just use your kitchen sink, and take your product out of the bath one or two degrees before your desired temperature as it will continue to cool or heat and you don’t want to go back and forth in cold and hot water baths!

Oils in cold water bath.

Oils in cold water bath.

Now you can add your fragrance. Some craft stores sell premixed oils just for soap, but I like to use essential oils. In this last batch, I added about 2 T of bay and 1.5 T of juniper. Put in more than you think because the fragrance tends to fade while the soap cures. Then pour your soap into the mold. Do this carefully because it is still very caustic.

soap

Cover the mold with saran and carefully carry the mold to a warm spot in your house and wrap it up in a blanket (one that you don’t like and can get wrecked, because it might! My last batch leaked out of the mold a little.) The soap needs to stay as warm as possible for the next 15-24 hours. It will harden, then go through another chemical process and liquefy again. Tomorrow it should be hard enough to remove from the mold and cut.

Keep your soap warm!

Keep your soap warm!

I use a vegetable crinkle cutter to cut my soap, but a wire works well, too. Then put it in a box for 14-30 days and let it cure. It may get a little white on the corners, that’s called soap ash, and it’s no big deal. When the soap is hard and has lost it’s oiliness, it’s ready to go. I want to make a label for my soap, but it needs a name. Any ideas?

Ready to cut, but not to use.

Ready to cut, but not to use.

Now you patiently wait!

Now you patiently wait!