Victoria & Pumpkin Torte

VictoriaThe first year of Victoria’s life she spent resting up for her future. I don’t think I ever saw her when she wasn’t lying quietly in her infant carrier. Maybe she was just mesmerized by the activity of our family when we were all together talking, laughing and playing. When she grew out of that carrier and began to toddle around she began to grow into the extra vivacious girl she is today. Her enthusiasm knows no bounds as she dances through life as cheerleader, dance team member and Homecoming queen. She is a born leader just like her dad. I remember her though before she became the cool young lady she is today.

When they were small, sisters Madeline and Victoria loved making houses on our back porch for the barn kittens they would find and tame. These houses were made out of cardboard boxes and old rags and doll blankets. Once when they were spending a few days at our house, they discovered that our cat Powderpuff was expecting another litter of kittens. They watched her every day and followed her as much as she would allow. Finally, one day they could not find her and hunted high and low for her. I suspected she had found a quiet spot away from the prying eyes of the girls and had her kittens.

I was in the house while they were out on another cat hunt when I heard a blood-curdling scream and saw Victoria running full speed toward the house. Terrified that something had happened to Madeline, I rushed outside and as soon as I got out of the door I heard, “I found them! I found Powderpuff’s kittens! I found them!” She was screeching so loud at the top of her lungs that I’m sure all our neighbors heard the good news too.

Many, many years ago I received the first issue ever of Farm Wife News (now Country Woman.) It was the beginning of a publishing dynasty for Bob pumpkin torteReiman including Birds and Blooms, Farm and Ranch Living, Country Living and many more quality magazines. When we graduated from high school, my best girlfriends went to college while I got married and had children. I looked forward to receiving my copy of Farm Wife News every month because I learned of other women who were living the same lifestyle I was and I received inspiration from their stories. On the recipe page of their new magazine I found the following one for Pumpkin Torte. While others won’t know the name, everybody in my family does. It’s a holiday tradition and I have to make it every Thanksgiving or hear complaints. Jeff never fails to ask, “Where’s the Pumpkin Torte!?” if I try and skip it.

Pumpkin Torte

24 crushed graham crackers       ½ cup milk
1/3 cup sugar                                  ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter                                  1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 beaten eggs                                  1 envelope plain gelatin
¾ cup sugar                                   ¼ cup cold water
3 egg whites                                   8 ounces room temperature cream cheese
2 cups pumpkin                            ¼ cup sugar
3 egg yolks                                      1 container whipped topping
½ cup sugar

Victoria with pumpkin torte

Here Victoria is ready to dig in to a piece of hers.

Mix graham crackers, 1/3 cup sugar and butter and press into 9×13 baking pan. Mix eggs, ¾ cup sugar and cream cheese and pour over crust. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cook pumpkin, egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, milk, salt and cinnamon until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add gelatin, dissolved in cold water. Cool. Beat egg whites, ¼ cup sugar and fold carefully into pumpkin mixture. Pour over cooled baked crust. Top with whipped cream.

 

Bounder

Erin and Bounder

My granddaughter Erin with Bounder the brave hunter.

Powderpuff, our spoiled pregnant cat that I told you about in my first book, had five babies a few years ago. When they were weaned I was told that I must find homes for her youngsters. Some people think farms are perfect places to drop off unwanted cats of all ages and we were overpopulated with felines, so the little kittens had to go. After having little success with a “Free Kittens” sign, one of dozens in the countryside each spring, I decided that I’d try reverse psychology. I put out a sign advertising “Kittens for Sale.” No one was fooled and I still had to give them away! There was one fuzzy little runt that nobody wanted so I talked Gerald into letting us keep him for a future mouser – Ha-ha – we already had dozens, but he’s pretty good about letting me have the things I really want badly so we now have one more cat. I guess he’s my cat because I’ve spent many hours doctoring him and am now in possession of a Tom cat that anyone would be proud to own. Since I paid the bills then, only our farm vet and I know how huge his vet bills were.

Last night my husband and all the men on the farm worked late so it was just me, Buck and the runt kitten I kept, now named Bounder. I sat outside on the porch steps and watched Buck as he waited patiently at the end of drive, just standing and watching for his master’s return, tail drooping and slowly wagging. He, finally, gave up and brought me his ball so we played fetch until my arm tired. (He, on the other hand, never tires!)

I was sitting on the step peacefully enveloped in the soft gray blanket of dusk when I saw Bounder rounding the corner of the house. He’s becoming a good hunter and a few days ago emptied a mouse nest, one little baby at a time. That poor mommy mouse must have been devastated! This evening as he proudly turned the corner he had something strange in his mouth. It looked like one of those coiled giant lollipops but all of a sudden it moved…and uncoiled! He had captured a snake and he was fascinated with his new catch. If you know cats, you know they don’t kill their prey outright but, instead, torture it with animalistic pleasure so long the poor animal just wishes it were dead. He’d throw the snake in the air and then when it coiled in on itself he would grab it and jump in the air as it stretched to it’s full length of eighteen inches. Kitty fun! Snake terror!

Bounder entertained me with his show for a long time as he jumped up as high as possible while trying to keep that whole snake off the ground. He would then throw it again and again. At times, he would leap a yard in the air after his catch. He was still throwing his terrorized snake in the air and jumping up on his hind legs with it in his paws when I decided to call it a night and go in the house.

Bounder

Bounder plays innocent, but we know better!

After I came in, I checked every fifteen minutes until bedtime and he was still torturing that poor reptile. When I told my husband the “snake” tale, I could tell he didn’t believe me. I swore it was true though and when he went out on the porch on his way to the barn this morning and found another bloody snake, he became a believer.

“The best way to get on with a cat is to treat it as an equal – or even better, as the superior it knows itself to be.” –Elizabeth Peters

Marcia

My hardworking friend, Marcia, is a devout Christian, talented organizer, crusader, gardener, cook and huge helper to all. Her husband is an avid gardener and the bounty of his 9000 square foot garden keeps Marcia, her daughter and grandchildren busy canning and freezing throughout the growing season. The whole family work together preserving the gifts his garden gives. Marcia, though, is the one who tends this little herb garden. Here she is surrounded by some of her herbs. The small individual clumps are Greek Basil which I’d not tasted before.

Marcia

She was telling me today that she freezes pesto and I found that hard to believe because I was sure it would turn brown as it thawed. She said that it stays and defrosts the same fresh green that it is when she puts it in glass jars in her freezer. I don’t have near the basil growing that she does but I do like pesto. With Marcia as inspiration I picked some basil today and tried, not only freezing pesto, but this recipe that she shared with me.

“Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade.” Rudyard Kipling

Marcia’s Pesto Pasta

Put 3 cups basil leaves in your food processor and chop coarsely. Add ½ cup pine nuts, ½ cup parmesan cheese, 3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. While chopping this mixture, add 1 cup olive oil through the small hole in your processor’s food tube and mix until almost smooth or the texture you prefer.

Boil one pound of your favorite pasta and drain. Reserve a little of the cooking water in case you need to thin your final dish. This liquid also contains starch and will thicken pasta dishes. Add 1 cup cottage cheese to the warm pasta and stir. It will almost dissolve and when it is mixed in add pesto and stir.

I would have never dreamed of the cottage cheese trick but it makes the dish creamy and mouth-watering.

Marcia calls this her fast food because she just takes a jar of pesto from the freezer to prepare it. I told you she was hard working – I call fast food a Big Mac!

Jack

Jack

You can tell Jack was pretty thrilled to pose for me!

Jack is the “city” cousin of my grandsons, but he and his sisters Maggie and Erin still spent many hours at our house while they were growing up. One time when his family was spending the weekend at our farm, Jack decided he would just like to be there a little longer and asked if he could spend the week. His parents said, “yes,” and he promptly asked his grandpa what time he left for the barn in the morning and set an alarm for that time. He got up that morning at 5:00 and went out with Gerald all dressed up in some borrowed tall rubber boots and an old shirt. He said he liked helping with chores, but he may have been being polite because that was the end of his farming days. He spent the rest of the week playing with his cousins and swimming in our pond.

He isn’t a hunter or rider like his male cousins but is especially strong in many different ways. He has great discipline and is a gifted musician, playing in many bands throughout his adolescent years. He went through a grueling ordeal, which has been likened to army boot camp, to become a member of The Ohio State Marching Band (best band in the land!) The honor of becoming a member of this band belongs to an elite few OSU students. This still of Jack playing his bass horn was taken when the OSU halftime was on television as he played for the first time on the field. Can you imagine our excitement? He had not only made the band and was playing but was captured on TV!

Jack on TV

Pea Salad for an Easy Summer Dish

This pea salad is a tradition in our family, and we have it often at family gatherings. Whenever I would fix this salad, Jack’s Dad, Brian, who was always so well-mannered and polite, never failed to crack us up when he would dryly say that it had been a long time since he’d “had a good pea.” We’re obviously an easily amused bunch!

My daughter and her husband enjoying

My daughter and her husband enjoying “a good pea”

It doesn’t take very long to throw these ingredients into a plastic bowl and cover until lunch time the next day.  Anything I can make ahead of time so that it’s easier to put a meal on the table is usually a hit with me.  If you leave the bacon off, it’s still good and is a nutritious side dish.

Combine one bag of frozen peas that have thawed, two chopped hardboiled eggs, one-half cup chopped green pepper, one-half cup chopped onion, one cup shredded cheddar cheese, three tablespoons mayonnaise, one-half teaspoon salt and one-quarter teaspoon pepper.  Top with three slices crumbled bacon.  Let the salad set overnight before serving.  Stir and serve.

Zach

Zach

Zach, our wild, ornery, sweet grandson, was lost to us in a tragic accident, but he will always remain in our memory as the kind, funny young man he was. Clay, his brother, and their family lived a quarter mile from us at the far end of our pasture. I was one blessed grandma because they were so close that I saw them most days.

Zach feeding calvesMy favorite memory of the two of them was watching them walking across the pasture from their house to ours. I can still see them in their little blue denim bibs making their way here to “work” on the farm. Clay and Zach were very close but he and his cousin Payton were more like each other. They were raised together a quarter mile apart as well. See how lucky I was – I had four grandchildren within one-half mile of our home.

When Payton was a newborn baby, Zach was two years old and told his mom, “I’m gonna teach that kid to fish someday!” He taught him many things (probably not all good!) Zach was surely the daredevil that taught Payton to ride 4-wheeler and snowmobile. Nobody could ride like Zach, but Payton did pretty well to keep up. I’ve always thought that the reason Payton was so tough was because he spent his early years trying to keep up with his older cousin.

We all miss our Zach. We just loved him so, so, so much and will miss him forever and ever!

I made this casserole for Zach one year for his birthday and he said it was the best chicken he had ever had. I thought while preparing supper that fried chicken would have gone over better for a young boy, so I felt his remark was high praise for a lowly casserole!

Casserole ingredients
Wilda’s Creamed Chicken

Sauté 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped green pepper and 1 cup chopped celery in 2 tablespoons melted butter. When vegetables are translucent add them to 2 cups cooked chicken either cut or torn into bite size pieces. Stir in two cups medium white sauce (see recipe in my book, Sustaining our Lifestyle, page 97.) Top with buttered bread crumbs and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.