Comfort foods for Winter

Last week I had a craving for meatloaf that was unstoppable.  I knew what I wanted and how I wanted it to taste.  I wanted savory meatloaf with a creamy mushroom gravy.  I did my shopping on Wednesday on my way home.  There was stormy wintry weather brewing.  I could see it from the grocery store parking lot.

Gathering foodstuffs for a week at home

Gathering foodstuffs for a week at home

I bought all kinds of goodies to cook.  I had already been to the local meat market and bought fresh ground beef, Oregon grown chicken breasts, and a pork loin roast.  Then I went to the Farmer’s Market and loaded up on fresh produce (as much local and organic as I could) and my herbs and spices.  I bought some seeds for doing sprouts.  This will be a new endeavor for me.  I have to find something to grow them in first.  I am hungry for fresh, and also to see something growing!  I am thinking of growing them in the window sill behind the stove, where I look out to the greenhouse area.  Encouragement and motivation!  This was my last stop before home.  A bottle of wine and some dairy products and I would be on my way!

By the time I got home, unloaded all the groceries, started a fire in the woodstove, hauled numerous loads of wood up the stairs, put the groceries all away and finally felt warm, I was pooped.  No meatloaf tonight.  I pulled out some 4 Bean Burner Chili from the freezer and heated that up!  Perfect food for a cold wintry night.  When I went down to close up the coop, a mere hour after arriving home, there was 1/2″ of snow on the ground.  I was home for the next 6 days.  Cooking was going to be one of my areas of focus.  But not tonight.  I was heading for bed.

I woke up Thursday with another dratted headache and I was down all day.  I was supposed to be house cleaning at the main house, but I couldn’t even get out of bed for the pain in my head and neck and shoulder.  Dratted all!  I scrounged around and heated up a slice of Quiche Lorraine from the freezer.  No meat loaf again!  I want this food so badly, my mouth just literally drools as it imagines the satisfying goodness of the flavors imagined!  The snow flew off and on all day long.  I was only out long enough to provide warm water for the girls, collect their eggs, and lock them up at night.  Each trip down I hauled up a few pieces of firewood.  It is a constant effort to keep the house warm.

This was what I woke up to on Friday morning!  Beautiful

This was what I woke up to on Friday morning! Beautiful

Friday arrives, snow flying still.  It is so pretty out here.  I head to work…carefully picking my way across the frozen icy path to the main house.  I am greeted by the dogs, barking and charging out the door to greet me.  M&E are enjoying a late breakfast at the table as we all discuss the weather, keeping the fires going in the woodstoves, chickens, food…and my desire for meatloaf.  I am determined to have meatloaf for my dinner I tell them.  Savory meatloaf with mushroom gravy! Between lunch break, a break to feed the girls some oatmeal, and problems with the vacummn cleaner, it was 6:30 before I hopped a ride in the handy farm golf cart for a ride up the hill!  I was pooped!

I stoked the fire, poured a glass of wine and sat down for a minute.  The Christmas tree was still standing, fully decorated.  And I had a house full of food to cook.  And I NEEDED to have meatloaf.  I put on some tunes, turned on the Christmas tree lights, and set out to fulfill my taste buds dreams!  The chores would wait.  But I could wait no longer for the object of my desire.

The picture of the finished product does NOT do it justice.  But….the first bite!  EXACTLY what I had been dreaming of.  Now how often does that happen?  A dream come true?  Yes, for me, this combination and way of preparing meatloaf was the epitomy of what I had lusted after for days!

The object of my desires...Savory Meatloaf with Mushroom gravy

The object of my desires…Savory Meatloaf with Mushroom gravy

Here is the recipe as I recall it being put together.  I am calling it Savory Meatloaf with Mushrooom Gravy (Gluten Free)

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Meatloaf:

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef

1/2 green pepper chopped

1/2 red pepper chopped

1 egg

1/4 c. ground tortilla chips

1/2 c. organic oatmeal

3/4 chopped crimini mushrooms

1 teas. worchestershire sauce

3 Tbspns cooked chopped bacon bits (something I keep on hand.Cook up 1 lb and chop, store in container in fridge for up to a month)

1 teas. sage

1 teas. rosemary

Mix all ingedients well in large bowl.  Set bowl in fridge until gravy is ready.

Gravy:

1 1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms

3 cloves garlic chopped

2 tbspns. organic unsalted butter

2 tbspns. oatmeal flour

1 teas. fresh rosemary chopped

1/2 teas. fresh ground pepper or to taste

2 cups beef broth

1/2 teas. worchestershire sauce

1/2 teas. kitchen Bouquet

1/4 c.  cream

Heat butter in cast iron skillet.  When just beginning to brown add mushrooms.  Cook while stirring about 4 minutes on medium, then add garlic and cook additional minute.  Add flour and rosemary and pepper.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until flour browns.  Put worchestershire sauce and ktichen Bouquet in broth.  Add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well to prevent lumps and scraping all the goodies off the bottonm of the pan.  Keep cooking until gravy begins to thicken, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in cream.

Pour 1/2 the gravy into the bottom of a 9×9 pan.  Form meatloaf on top of gravy.  Pour the rest of the gravy over the top!  Bake in preheated oven for about 75 minutes.  Check after 60 minutes.  I like mine done!  I drained all the fat off into a aluminum foil bowl after removing it from the oven.  The fat comes off but the yummy gravy tidbits stick!

I couldn’t wait for the roasted veggies I had prepared.  I had to have a bite of that meatloaf.  It smelled like I had dreamt it would.  It looked pretty close to what I had envisioned (I think I would do this in a loaf pan next time).  The taste test….PERFECT!!!  I had done it!  A meatloaf to write about!   A meatloaf to make again.  And again!

BTW…there are a couple packages of this in the freezer now, for days when I can’t cook and have a craving!!!  And this is definately a meatloaf that lovers will crave!

The freezer after a cooking weekend

The freezer after a cooking weekend

A couple packages of meatloaf for a day I have a craving!

A couple packages of meatloaf for a day I have a craving!

Preparations for Winter

Foggy mornings prevail in this valley.  The last few days I have awakened to a misty fog that hangs out  right here in our own little microclimate.  It isn’t suoper dense nor is it low.  It is just there enough to block seeing the hilltops across the property.  It is an enjoyable fog in my perspective.  Not too wet, not too cold, not too dense.  Just gentle drifts of whiteness.  It lifts around noon, and there are the grey skies just above the fog.  But it did not rain today.

I had to order wood to be delivered.  This is the first time I have had to order and buy wood myself.  I bought it from a young man who is just getting started in the business.  We have had a few warnings on Craigslist regarding the less than honest ethics that go with buying wood in these parts.  So when I spoke with this man I was very clear.  I told him that I had been a business owner in the past and I knew how hard it was to get started.  I also told him I knew of at least one household (M & E, my landlords, which is how I will always refer to them) that was needing a couple cords of wood.  I told them if they were honest and did a good and honest job that I would tell EVERYONE about them.

The first cord that was scheduled for delivery I received a phone call saying they were running late..  I told them I appreciated the call and the information.  They delivered the first cord and I did not measure it.  It appeared to be nice dry Silver Madrone, which is what they had advertiesed.

The next day they came back with another cord.  This time I measured.  8X7.5X20 inches.  It looked about the same as the last delivery.  I told them it seemed a bit short, and they said they would make it good.  They talked to M&E about getting wood later in the week.  I called and said by my calculations they were off by at least 1/4 cord, possibly closer to 1/2 cord.  I said I would be stacking it this week to get a true measurement.  They told me they would honor whatever was missing.

So today, I got out there and started stacking.  This is my first time stacking wood all on my own.  I had helped my brother in the past, as well as helped with preparing wood and stacking it where I lived last year.  But this was my very first time of doing it on my own.  I have to say I am feeling pretty good about it.  My stacks are tight, stable, sturdy and just about the right height.  I worked about 3 hours to get three stacks done.  It was getting dark and the girls had already got themselves into the coop by the time I finished up.

Dwindling wood pile

Wood Stack

First time stacking wood! I think I did a darned good job! More to do tomorrow.

How much wood do you usually use in a burning season?  I had about 1/2 cord already and am hoping I can make these 2 cords last.  Time will tell for me.  I did make some good progress on my stacking today.    I will have to make sure to set some aside for another cord or so for late winter/eary spring.  Where I lived last year I was told we went through 3 1/2 cords.  I was home most the time, so I may end up needing another cord. I do have to say, the woodstove I have here is wonderful at putting out the heat.  I am sitting at my table, having my dinner of Cha Cha Chicken and White Bean Chili and the heat is so nice coming from the woodstove.  I’ve had to remind myself more than once to close the bedroom door so my room will be cool for sleeping!  I like sleeping with a window cracked and the room cool, and nice warm cozy blankets and quilts.

I am considering making a Quiche tonight.  I have plenty of eggs as well as some fresh zuchinni, spinach and of course…onions and garlic.  I even picked up some Swiss Cheese.  For now I am going to enjoy my dinner and relax for awhile.  And I do know that a long hot soak in the tub in in my future before the end of the evening.

I am including a picture of my Polish hen, Donna.  She is quite the eye catcher.  Everyone notices Donna with her pretty coloring and her Bouffant hairdo!!!

Donna and her Bouffant hair

Donna is such a eye catcher. Everyone notices Donna. But she just pecks around like all the rest the girls and really doesn’t make much fuss about her appearance. Kind of like me!!!!