Monday, October 29, 2007

Vegetarian Mincemeat: Green Tomato Pie

I cleared out most of the garden yesterday thinking that maybe we'd finally get a frost. Besides getting loads of bell peppers I had a bag full of cherry sized green tomatoes.

This means time for my annual green tomato pie. I use the recipe from my 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook:

Here is the recipe:

If you want to make this, here is Betty's (and my changes) in a downloadable (MS Word) version

Here is the step by step (my changes in parentheses):

Mix together:
•1 1/3 cups sugar
•6 2/3 tablespoons GOLD MEDAL flour (I use whatever flour and round to 7)
•1 ½ teaspoons of salt
•1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon or nutmeg (¾ t cinnamon AND ¾ t nutmeg)

Mix lightly through:
•4 cups green tomato slices
•4 tablespoons lemon juice or 1 ½ tablespoons mild vinegar (vinegar)
•1 1/3 teaspoons grated lemon rind (omit)

What I do is:
Put the cut up tomatoes in the bottom crust

Dump the mixed dry ingredients on top

Shake it a little bit

Dot the filling in the pan with:
• 1 ½ tablespoons of butter

Cover with top crust. Bake until nicely browned. Serve slightly warm.

TEMPERATURE: 425 hot oven
TIME: 35 to 45 minutes

My changes:

Usually I do the lattice top, just because its cool. I also mix egg whites, milk and sugar to brush over top crust

TIME: 45 to 55 minutes

I was cheating so I used frozen crusts, and got distracted taking out the top one so it looks pretty bad:

Usually I end up burning the edges so I often wrap foil around the pan, also this can get drippy so I always put a cookie sheet under it. I think the cookie sheet is why I always need to bake longer:

I forgot to brush on the milk/egg/sugar mixture so it didn't look quite as "golden" as usual:

I called the neighbors to invite them over when it was done and the girls were in bed. Mike, a phenomonal chef, proclaimed it good.

Over course the key question is: How does it taste? Well I've served it to people telling them it was apple, and they believed me. It's a little more tart, so my description is that it falls halfway between apple and mincemeat, hence today's title.

And here's how it looks half gone:

Friday, October 26, 2007

You Know it's a Home Football Game Weekend When...

...The Port-O-Potty guys drop off the bathroom for the neighbor's driveway:

Yep, I was just out shooting my last walnut-in-the-driveway picture, and couldn't resist getting this one.

The good news is that this season they deliver every Friday before a game and pick it up on the Monday after. Last season it sat there from the end of the August to the end of November. The only people in favor of that were the neighborhood kids, who found it tremendously convenient.

Maybe I'll get a shot tomorrow of the neighbor's yard piled with cars and people tailgaing. I think he's managed to squeeze in even more than last year.

Go Hawkeyes, beat Michigan State's Sparty tomorrow!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Smashing Good Time!

So far they have broken our gazing ball, put a major hole in the girls' plastic toy box, and scared us every time one has hit the garage roof. (They sound as loud as a gunshot) What I am talking about? Our walnuts of course.

We have three very walnut large trees, and we've had more nuts this year than in any previous. I've taken 7 wheelbarrow loads to the ravine, and filled a 20 gallon garbage can for my two aunts, Martha and Helen, who came to visit last week. Aunt Martha took the garbage can load, and we also filled the rest of her car trunk as well. She cracks walnuts every winter and was delighted to have them.

This got me thinking that I should try to save and crack some this winter myself. Lisa mentioned that black walnuts sell at the farmer's market for about $8/pint.

So in the three days since we loaded up Aunt Martha, we have once again filled the garbage can:

And a laundry basket:

And still have quite a few laying around:

Martha says to wait until the husks turn black before you try to remove them. Getting the husks off is not easy. After the nuts are husked, she then gets a big tub of water and throws the nuts into the water. Any nuts that float don't have any meat in them so she throws them away. She gets out the ones that sink and spreads them out to dry in her basement. She then cracks them as she watched TV at night.

I've been thinking about an easy way to husk the nuts. Many nuts drop right onto our driveway:

Those are best because then I can just use the automatic husking machine on them:

One pass and voila:

I think I should just rake them into two lines and run over them deliberately, instead of only getting those that land in the right spot by chance.

We'll see how far I get on this

I think the house is watching me...

Yes it's that time of year when the ghostly starts to appear at Foxcroft. I don't think there is any type of house that more easily lends itself to being scary than a side gable bungalow with a front dormer. Here it is from the inside:

But hang some plastic and you get this:

And it looks even better by night:

With the orange lights on the porch, it looks just like a huge open mouth with teeth.

It can be pretty frightening from the inside:

The girls say them been startled several times in the two weeks since we've put it up:

Our annual scarecrow-like stuffed people are out too, this year without heads:

Stay tuned for our other scary, or more accurately, dangerous house occurance: WALNUTS.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bess' Diary

For a school assignment Rowan had to bring an artifact that would be of interest to a historian. She asked if she could take one of Bess' diaries. I don't know when Bess started keeping a daily journal, but we have them from 1930 to 1970, when she died. She kept these in 5 year diaries where a single page would have space for five years worth of a single date. I told Rowan that I would type one page because Bess' handwriting was a little hard to read. Of course Rowan picked her own birthday, and then said 1950. So listed below is what happened at our house on Dec. 16 from 1950 to 1954. The number to the left of the year is the temperature on that day. I don't know if it was the high or low or at a specific time. Bess usually wrote before going to bed.

Wrote H.
Paul shoveled drifted walk 25¢
Hot shower + bed at 6 Grace phoned


25 19(50) Sat. Didn’t get much done. H’s check came + I walked to bridge + sent it airmail. Shopped at Lawson’s. Addressed about 50 cards. Cracked English walnuts - Took cake to Ray’s- They gave H + me each a hand painted (by Bob) plate lovely. Betty here AM gave her fruit + berries

-7 19(51) Sun. Put chocolate top on peppermints- got food around for supper- Heard Chicago Cards beat Bears. Fran + Helen came 4 – 7:30 Fran reported on her western trip. Bob brought his N.Y. report over just as we sat down to table – gave them fruit cake + cocktail napkins – did ducks + to bed at 8 - Postman brought mail in P.M. Clara S + Mabel phoned

40 19(52) Tue. Baked 2 2/3 recipe chocolate cookies – 1 maple fondant
I took roast to Ray’s – Coke to Spoon + (?) Helen whiffies (?)
Mrs. Armstrong brought a huge squash + I gave her cookies. H sewed awhile + beat me at Canasta. Made Turkish Creams. Bed at 8.

19(53) Wed. Cookies + candies all day. Mickey took cream to Grace + met me at Lawson’s + carried home groceries. H cracked + packed over 1 qt Walnuts
Spread sheet in back yard + put nut shells out for birds- they loved it - Illinois on front porch dominoes in evening

33 19(54) Thur. Mickey took car to work 1-10. All of us finished writing Christmas cards + most of ‘em mailed – H + M got a new tree at Lawson’s 2.39. I baked 7 fruit cakes - wrapped them in wine soaked cloths. Gretchen here for tea + we gave her her coverlet fruit cake and candies. Dottie here W/ Bob’s impossible Santa face - We combed whiskers for some time. Betty here a while early - Fran + Helen came for their 7 lbs. pecanettes. Left a poem + knit sock Mickey lost Dr. Hopp box 8 pecanettes Box came from Polish man

Monday, October 15, 2007

Green? No just cheap...

Since today is Blog Action Day, drawing attention to environmental issues, I thought I'd do my part.

This is hard, because for years I've known that the things I do, that others today refer to as "green," have not been motiviated by nobler purposes, but in fact are due to my being a cheapskate at heart.

When I was a kid my favorite day of the week on my early morning paper route was Friday. That was garbage day. I could see what other people had thrown away and bring it home with me. I remember bringing home a toilet when I was in 8th grade and making it into a chair for my room. For years at Thanksgiving my family used the giant turkey platter I brought home from the neighbor's trash. My father-in-law, a well known wildlife artist, raved about the incredible 2 foot tall carved eagle that I gave him for Christmas the year before Lisa and I were married. I never mentioned that I'd been carting it around for years since rescuing it out of a garbage can.

From those days until this I have scrounged whenever possible. In finishing our upstairs 90% of our finish wood was salvaged: flooring, casing and backbanding. I have storms and screens that have been picked up off the curb. I have personally diverted tons of waste from landfills, but don't thank me for it, I was happy to get the stuff at bargain prices.

Even my one truly "big ticket" item, our geothermal heating/cooling system was motivated by the fact that it was cheaper to do than add on to the existing boiler and install a high velocity air conditioning system.

Of course the kicker that truly sold me on geotheramal? Free hot water in the summer when the air conditioning is running, because the hot air in the house goes past the water heater before being piped back into the ground.

So happy Blog Action Day! Even if protecting the environment is my latent rather than manifest function!

Friday, October 12, 2007

What I do when I'm not house blogging…

Since a wee bit of time has past since my last update, here's a quick run down of what's been happening lately:

I picked up four storm and screen sets for the back of the house from Adams Architectural. They came already primed and I painted the screens and mounted them. I need to get moving on doing the storms.

I finished painting around the back door and the inside of the roof of the back porch.

Since I had to take the screen door off to complete the trim, I finished varnishing the wooden screen door at the same time.

I took down the back porch light, stripped off the paint and polished it a bit with 0000 steel wool. I then gave it a light coating of Neat's Foot Oil and put it back up.

I also did another Bondo Job on the porch barge board. I've now got it painted but won't get any further this fall probably.

I rescued a ton of straight vertical grain fir flooring from a job another house renovator was doing. This floor was salvaged by Friends of Historic Preservation (more on them later) last summer. These boards were all sold for an interior restoration, and some were rejected by the floor installers. I will use them to repair my damaged back porch floor and perhaps a future extension of the porch.

I also picked up three A& C tapered columns at a salvage place in Davenport. My long term goal is to use these (and build a fourth to match it) in a pergola in the back yard that will be adjacent to the fish pond that we will begin restoring next summer.

The floor and columns are currently residing in a secret location, known as the fortress of solitude…


As the current president of Friends of Historic Preservation I made a whirlwind trip up to St. Paul last week (along with the chair of the Iowa City Historic Preservation Comission, Tim Weitzel and Iowa City mayor pro tem, Regenia Bailey). We went to receive an Honor Award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation at their National Preservation Awards Ceremony in the Fitzgerald Theater (home of Prairie Home Companion). We were recognized for the public/private partnership that responded to the April 13, 2006 tornado that damaged three historic districts and two conservation districts in Iowa City. Sadly due to schedule conflicts we literally drove up, got the award, and drove home. I would have loved to have an opportunity to visit Twin City bloggers, who I regularly read especially Stucco House and Bungalow 23. Damn.

Other Things

We got another school year off to a good start, we have over 100 new teachers to the district, including 50 new to the profession teachers. This along with planning for a new student information system next year has kept me hopping.

The Fiddler’s Picnic was glorious this year. Once again, older daughter and I played together, this was the first time that we’d had a duet with her on the fiddle:

Since younger daughter was 5 years old, she made her debut on the ukulele:

As you can see things have been busy, but I promise not to wait so long for another update.