Tag Archives: cooking

Pumpkin Bread

IMG_7211We have so much pumpkin puree in the freezer.  It was from the Smokey House garden last year.  Kids grew it, then baked it until it was soft, and then scraped the insides out.

We had to thaw the puree before we could do anything with it.  Juanita mixed the dry ingredients and I mixed the wet ingredients.  Then we added the dry ingredients to the wet and mixed them until it was like batter.  We added the chocolate chips in the end,  then baked for an hour.

We made two loaves and ate them!  I usually don’t like the taste of pumpkin, like in coffee and pumpkin spice-flavored things.  This was really good because it wasn’t fake.


Sweet Maple in the Kitchen

We love maple syrup, and we have plenty of it, so we have been cooking up a storm in POD 8.  As we learned about the sugaring process and helped out in the sugarbush, we were also trying out different recipes, mainly relying on one cookbook:  Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich (Storey Press, 2001).

Some recipes have been more successful than others.  Here is the list:

IMG_9369Day 1 – Indian Pudding.  A traditional New England dessert, this might have been a real treat for us 200 years ago.  This version is quite luscious, and it smelled particularly good while cooking.  Not everyone was a fan of the texture or of the molasses flavor, but it’s something I will make again.

Day 2 – Maple Hot Chocolate.  We were busy in the snowy woods this day, so we made a rich hot chocolate that required 2 ounces of chocolate per cup of milk.  It was too chocolatey for some, but easily thinned with more milk.  The maple part of it was not impressive – a simple teaspoon of syrup in each cup.  You couldn’t taste the maple unless you added many more spoonfuls.

Day 3 – Maple Granola.  This was a standard granola recipe that uses maple syrup instead of honey.  Very tasty.  Again, some students thought it could stand to be sweeter, and some were not crazy about the nuts and sunflower seeds.  It’s very easy to adjust sweetener and additions to taste in this kind of recipe.

IMG_9496Day 4 – North Country Basting Saucy and Hot&Spicy Kabobs.  This was a winner.  The basting BBQ sauce was tangy, and with the addition of onions, lemon juice and spice made wonderful kebabs.  One student brought in venison, and another brought in shrimp.  Five stars from everyone.

gorp barsAlso on Day 4 – Gorp Bars.  These were a disappointment.  The description indicated a bar that was “moist and chewy” and great for taking on a hike. (Think “good old raisins and peanuts” plus oats.)   Instead, it was a bit dry and crumbled easily.  I won’t be making this again, but will look for a similar granola bar recipe.

img_9508Day 5 – Maple Fudge.  Made with maple syrup, sugar, and cream, it’s trickier than you think!  Working on a sample batch the day before,  I was beating it, and just as it was almost ready, the phone rang.  By the time I asked the caller to call back in 10 minutes, the fudge had set.  It was too hard to press into the pan, but the chunks and crumbs were delicious.  When we tried it again the next day, it seems that we didn’t beat it enough, or else we didn’t get the temperature just right.  It never set properly, so we ended up with a tasty maple caramel.  My portion is waiting in my freezer, as I’m still trying to figure out how to use it.  Perhaps next time it will by “just right.”

IMG_3111Day 6 – Lasagne.  This project was leftover from the previous POD.  We had already made the sauce, so it just needed an assembling of the pasta and cheeses.  However, we added some maple syrup to the sauce so it “counted” as a maple recipe. (Many recipes add sugar to tomato sauce, so why not add maple syrup?)

Day 7 – Maple Vanilla Tapioca.  We didn’t have much time for cooking this day, but tapioca is quick and easy.  Mix 3 Tbsp of instant tapioca crystals with milk, egg and syrup (instead of sugar.)  Let stand 5 minutes.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add 1 tsp vanilla, and let stand 20 minutes.  Done!  It was well received by those who like puddings, the only critique being too much vanilla.

Day 8 – Maple-Orange Wings.  This was another disappointment – so bland and flavorless.  Looking again at the recipe afterwards, we noticed that it described the flavor as “delicate and subtle”. The wings were soaked in a marinade of orange, buttermilk, cinnamon and maple syrup.   Maybe they would have been better cooked on a grill instead of baked.  (With our old gas oven, we didn’t have the option of broiling.)  We won’t be making them again.

Also on Day 8 – Maple Baked Beans.  This was a winner that saved the day.  Earlier we had shelled the Vermont cranberry beans that had been drying in the barn all winter.  I soaked and cooked the beans, and baked them at home, bringing them in to share.  They had just the right mix of sweet and tangy, and the beans themselves had a firm, smooth texture.  Everyone loved them and filled up on beans instead of wings.


IMG_9576Day 9 – Maple Bacon and Buttermilk Pancakes.  We ended the POD with traditional pancakes and syrup and with bacon glazed with syrup.  Yum.  We reviewed at least four different buttermilk pancake recipes before deciding (by majority vote) on the NY Times version.  “Not as good as the Joy of Cooking recipe”, said Tom, “but still a good choice!”

My thoughts on the experience?  If I were doing it again, I would not rely on this one cookbook.  I trusted it too much, and we could have done better.  Instead, I would research the best IMG_9588recipes and reviews from a number of (mainly online) sources, keeping the best of what we have discovered.  I am already trying out more maple recipes at home.  (This week I made Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns – yum.) Also, learning from our experiments, I am now more comfortable substituting maple syrup for white sugar in a variety of recipes (1 for 1 volume, but reduce liquid).

Let the sap run on….








Maple Indian Pudding

img_9369Wednesday at Smokey House we made a maple indian pudding

Steps we need to make the pudding

  1. look at the recipe
  2. gather all the things we needed (milk,cornmeal,pure maple syrup,raisins,butter,molasses,cinnamon,ginger, and salt).
  3. preheat the oven
  4. heat the milk in a heavy bottom pot over stove
  5. whisk and put the cornmeal in the pot then stir for ten mins
  6. add the rest of the ingredents and keep stirring
  7. put the mix into a 9″/13″ pan and bake for two hours and thirty minutes

My opinion on the pudding was that it was not the best. Very anti-climactic when I tried it, because I was thinking it was going to taste good and I was ready for it. It kinda tasted like pumpkin pie to me, and the texture of it had that pumpkin pie texture. We should’ve put more maple syrup and less raisins. We put a cup of syrup in it, we should have put two cups. Sam did not like it, the other two liked it. No, never again will I make it.

Chicken cordon bleu

Today at Smokey House I made chicken cordon bleu. It was easy to make. At first I thought it was gonna taste pretty weird because we had different ingredients than how I’m used to making it but it ended up tasting great.

Chicken Cordon BleuIMG_0224

  • Ham
  • Swiss cheese
  • Organic chicken Breast
  • Eggs
  • Bread crumbs
  • Cream of mushroom soup
  • Olive oil
  • Roll up the chicken breast with the Swiss cheese and ham.
  • Then beat eggs.
  • Dip it in the egg batter then roll them around the bread crumbs.
  • Cook it until it’s brown in a frying pan with olive oil.
  • Put the cooked chicken in the baking dish.
  • Pour cream of mushroom soup over the chicken in a baking dish.
  • Then put it in the oven at 425 till the cream of mushroom soup is hot take it out.

Looking Back

Looking back these past few months at Smokey House, here are some of the favorite things I’ve done:

  • Made shelters outside twice.
  • Have done some wilderness survival learning.
  • Made a fire outside by the stream on the Herrick House trail.
  • Made things; the honeysuckle coat rack, wreaths, food such as pumpkin bread/puree, soups, and bread.
  • Visited farms such as The Two Dog Farm, Yoder Farm, and the Green Mountain College Farm.
  • Sold our products (pumpkins, pumpkin bread, peppers, etc) at the Manchester Farmers Market twice.
  • Harvested a lot of pumpkins, tomatos, beets and peppers.
  • Did tree/plant identifcation.
  • Did trail work on the pond, and hiking route.

Building shelters Making the shelters.

IMG_7453 Student helping to make the Honeysuckle coat racks.

IMG_0675 Me lighting the fire.

IMG_0647 Harvesting.

IMG_7561 Working in the kitchen.
IMG_0662 At the pond.

The First Quarter

IMG_7012Can you believe that we’ve completed the first quarter of the school year already?  Here’s a partial list of the learning activities at YouthWork and Learn:

  • Writing – daily reflections and review of learning; free-writing; blog posts.
  • Reading – field guides; cookbooks and recipes; informational magazines.IMG_0591
  • Exploration of agriculture – the practice and economics of farming, including visits to four farms.  Hands-on experiences in apple picking, field preparation, scything/mowing, composting, mulching, pest identification.  Planning and selling produce at farmers market.
  • Botany and ecology – work on leaf, plant, and tree identification; invasive species;  human interaction with the environment.
  • Nutrition – including food pyramid, nutrients, calories; food log.
  • Culinary skills – Cooking and baking: fresh tomato sauce, “caprese” salad, salsa, cider, applesauce, pumpkin puree, pumpkin bread, dried herbs, stuffed mini-pumpkins/squash.  Use and preservation of fresh vegetables.  Kitchen safety, maintenance and organization.
  • Garden management – active planning, managing, and problem-solving in the garden.IMG_7105
  • Geography – familiarity with local area including farms and forest, map reading.
  • Physical activity – daily outdoor activities, including hiking and garden work.
  • Creative arts – photography, honeysuckle woodcraft, balanced rocks installation.
  • Current issues – daily discussion of personal and social issues, politics, government, etc.
  • Development of personal and career-related skills – leadership, team-work, problem-solving, independence, persistence, resilience, attentiveness, et al.



Pumpkins and Basil

The basil tops were nipped by frost.
The basil tops were nipped by frost.

It’s Wednesday, and finally we have a warm sunny day. The first frosts have blackened the tops of the basil, finished off the cucumbers and attacked the pole beans. However, the parsley and cilantro weren’t worried by the cold, and the bees are still buzzing around the oregano and the thyme.

We've grown 160 mini-pumpkins and 33 pie pumpkins
We’ve grown 160 mini-pumpkins and 33 pie pumpkins

We harvested the last of the pumpkins and moved them to the terrace to continue curing in the sun. We also harvested herbs to hang up and dry inside, and as always, we bring in whatever is ready, like the last cukes and the latest tomatoes to ripen.

Before lunch we pulled out the old cider press and checked that all the parts were there.  We plan to test it out on Friday.IMG_6977

For lunch we made insalata caprese, an Italian tomato, basil and mozzarella salad, drizzled with blueberry balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It was luscious and worthy of a fancy restaurant. This afternoon after blog writing, we moved to botany, studying the structure of leaves and how to use them to identify trees and other plants.  We spent some time with a variety of leaves, categorizing them by structure and using the field guides to identify a mystery tree.  (We figured out it was a basswood.)IMG_6979