What’s Not to Like About Moss?

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hreen mountain moss

I decided to go for a quick hike on the mountain this morning. The air was crisp, the temperature was 21 degrees when I started. There are only a few things green on the mountain now, pine trees, white pines, hemlocks, holly trees, mountain laurel and moss! As I hiked around the Northside of the mountain where it is always moist and shaded, I found a few large patches of green moss. The moss I found today was eye-catching green unlike nearly all other plants that have already turned brown.

moss growing on rocks

Many people don’t give moss much thought but what’s not to like about moss? Not sure what type of moss this is but it is different than most I find on the mountain. This variety grows in large clumps.

green moss

This moss was covering large rocks.

clumps-of-moss

I found a really large area of bright green color moss.

close up of moss

A white pine seedling growing in a large patch of moss.

moss-on-rocks

rocks with moss

The moss covers a lot of the large rocks.

icicles hanging from rock

Found these large icicles, the longest is about 12 inches long. After hiking for about an hour and fifteen minutes, I decided to head back to the house for hot chocolate!

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Making Pasta Fazool

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pasta fazool soup or Pasta fagioli soup

My grandmother and grandfather wre Italian, both from Genoa, Italy. They both came to America in 1908. My grandmother made Pasta Fazool for us all the time. The Pasta Fazool was eaten before the main meal. Pasta Fazool means “pasta and beans” and one of our family favorites.

map of Italy show Genoa

I have been making my grandmothers recipe for nearly 30 years at least 3 or 4 times a year. My children love this soup! What is it called in your family – Pasta Fagioli or Pasta Fazool?

Today, I decided to make Pasta Fazool for my wife and I. This recipe makes enough to feed 6 to 8 people so we will be having it again later in the week. It actually taste better the second day.

Ingredents
16 oz. Great Northern dried beans
8 to 10 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil or cookng oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion chopped
1 celery stalk diced
5 carrots, chopped coin size
bay leaf
12 oz can whole roma tomatoes
2-3 sliced of diced & cooked prosciutto (optional) *My children to not like me to include proscitto, so I left it out of my recipe below.
Grated Parmesan cheese

Overnight Soak
Prepare the beans the night before making your overnight soaking.

Rinse your beans!
Bagged beans are often very dirty and contain rocks, and other debris so wash them multiple times until the drained water is no longer dirty. Look for rocks as you rinse the beans. After rinsing, put rinsed beans into a large cooking pot. Remember that the beans will swell, so use a big pot. Add water, oil and salt and cover for overnight soaking.

ingredents for pasta fazool soup

tomatoes-celery-carrots-onion for pasta fazool soup

Cut your onion, celery and carrots.

Chopped-carrot-celery-onion

Cooking Directions after Overnight Soak
Add onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf to pot and then place the pot on the stove. If you don’t have a bay leaf it will be just as good without it. I ususally start cooking early in the morning with plans to eat that evening, cooking low and slow. Cooking low will generally take about 6-8 hours. I start the termperature at 2.0 which is low heat and adjust as needed. The trick is not to cook too fast, that will break down the beans too quickly. Don’t let them boil!

add onion, ccelery and carrot to past fazool soup

Above picture I just added the onion, celery and carrots.

After about three-four hours I check the carrots. The carrots take longer to cook. If they are cooked, I then add the can of whole tomatoes, juice and all. I cook the tomatoes for about 30 minutes, then I will cut the whole tomato in smaller pieces. Taste and add a little more salt to taste, if needed. I continue to simmer until we are ready to eat.

roma tomatoes

Roma Tomotoes

added-tomatoes to pasta fazool soup

Roma tomatoes added to soup

In another pot, cook your pasta, any small pasta shell or noodle will do. It will take about 10 minutes to get the water boiling and another 8 to 9 minutes for the pasta to cook. Don’t over cook, I will cook until al dente. We keep the pasta separate from the soup since my girls prefer it without the pasta.

In the last minutes before serving, taste and add seasoning to your taste. Serve hot, adding pasta to your bowl, you will also want pepper and maybe some grated Parmesan cheese!

bowl of pasta fazool soup

Enjoy! Your gonna want seconds!

Round Cutting Boards with Paddle Handle

Garden Snails

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large snail

Slow as they go…

I walked out on our deck this morning and found this snail. Now let me tell you the real story. Our deck is 55 to 60 feet off the ground! I wonder how long it took him to make it to the top of our deck and why? We have a couple of potted geraniums up there, table and chairs. He couldn’t be coming to eat the geranium, or could he?

Every garden has snails, especially if you grow hosta and other shade plants that are prone to be eaten by snails. I find most of them in my shade garden. They are nocturnal so they will travel around mostly at night. If I have a problem with them eating my plants I will usually go snail hunting after dark. I use my hands to pick up the snails but use tooth picks to get the big slugs. On my snail hunting nights I can easily fill a small 6 ounce cup with them.

Some species of snails hibernate during the cold months covering their bodies with a thin layer of mucus. The mucus prevents them from drying out. Did you know that snails can live from 5 to 25 years depending on their habitat and species.

A Surprise Package

Round Cutting Boards with Handle

 

 

Chipmunk

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chipmunk

 I spent 20 minutes trying to catch this little guy; somehow he sneaked into the house. Finally, he ran into the master bedroom closet. I quickly closed the door, even though I had him cornered he still our maneuvered me for quite awhile. I guess he was hunting for a warm place to sleep tonight!

Handmade Ice Cream Scoops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Surprise Package ….

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A Surprised Package From a Wonderful Blogger Friend

Something exciting happened late yesterday afternoon and why bother having a blog if you don’t use it to tell people exciting things, right?

Yesterday, when I go to check the mail I have a package. I thought my wife had ordered something but it was addressed to me.   I had received in the mail a wonderful surprise from a blogger friend, Julie who lives in Georgia, USA. I have an extra long driveway so the walk back to the house was even longer thinking about the package and what’s inside.  Julie had mentioned she was sending me a package but what a wonderful surprise! 🙂

homemade madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

Can’t wait to see what’s in the box, excitement! Wow, bubble wrap, it sure is packaged really well! 🙂

homemade madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

Happy and smiling, 🙂 wow, what a surprise, two bottles of homemade vanilla extract from Julie, my blogger friend! Julie sent me two different kinds of her homemade vanilla extract, Madagascar and tahitian vanilla beans using bourbon and honey bourbon as well as a bottle of  tahitian vanilla beans using vodka . Julie knew I loved to cook and bake. I love these bottles…boy it smells great too, I think I could almost drink it.  I can’t wait to try it. Julie included a very nice note and she says to use the bourbon base vanilla when making things wiht chocolate and the vodka base vanilla for anything else. She doesn’t strain her extract because she prefers the presence of the small seeds and I agree with her, I do as well. I think it adds more flavor to any recipe.

Julie blogs everyday, very inspirational, you can tell she pours her heart into her blog and is a very dedicated blogger. Of all beautiful things she writes about, she also writes about food. Julie posted months ago about making her homemade vanilla extract. To learn more about Julie and her homemade vanilla extract visit her site cookiecrumbstoliveby .

Thank you so much Julie! I appreciate your friendship, kindness, you made my day and made me feel very special! I can’t wait to try your homemade vanilla!

Christmas Rum Cake

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delicious christmas rum cake

Awh.. Rum Cake, it’s so delicious!

I enjoy watching Food Network channel and I will occasionally watch Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman depending on what she is cooking. This recipe comes from Ree’s web site, it is so easy to make, it is very moist and delicious. I love rum cake and could eat it all year long! I will probably make this cake 4, 5 or 6 times between now and Christmas for family and friends. This is a great cake to make as a gift and they will love you for it!

This is an easy recipe since it uses a cake mix.

Ingredients for the cake
1 box of Yellow cake Mix, I used Duncan Hines brand
1 package of instant vanilla pudding mix
4 whole eggs
½ cup of water
½ cup of oil
½ cup of your favorite rum, light of dark
1 cup of chopped pecans
Brown sugar

Ingredients for the Glaze
1-1/2 stick of butter
¼ cup water
1-1/2 cup of sugar
¾ cups of rum

Preheat oven to 325 F, or if you are using a confection oven 300 F.

I am going to give you a link to The Pioneer Woman web site for the preparation details, The Pioneer Woman Christmas Rum Cake recipe.

Here are a few pictures as I make this cake.

rum cake ingredients

I prefer Duncan Hines mix.

 

nuts-and-brown-sugar-in-pan

Pecans and brown sugar.

rum cake

Ready to go into the oven.

rum cake-in-pan-just-out-of-the-oven

About 1 hour later!!

christmas rum cake glaze ingredients

Let’s don’t forget the rum glaze!!!

delicious christmas rum cake

My Rum Cake is cooled and ready to eat… and it was really delicious!

slice of christmas rum cake

Bobcat

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bobcat Reconyx trail cam picture

I decided this morning to pull the sandisk memory card from my trail cam and see if I had any good pictures. It is always kinda fun to see what animals have been on our property. I had the usual animals, deer, raccoon, ground hogs, coyotes  and always a lot of turkey. Every now and then I will get a black bear but this is the first time I have gotten a bobcat. I have seen this bobcat many, many times but I have never caught him on the trail cam. The last time I saw this bobcat he came running off our front porch as we drove up our driveway. I figured he was looking for our cats.

These pictures were taken by my Reconyx Hyperfire trail cam mounted on a tree  along my driveway. The lights you see in the background are on our gate. I really enjoy my Reconyx trail cam. Each pictures is date and time stamped in the upper left hand corner, an image of the moon is shown and the temperature.  Look at the time stamp on all these pictures. My trail cam took three pictures in time sequence, then the last picture was taken 2 minutes later than the first three. The bobcat is about 15 to 20 feet from the camera.

bobcat reconyx trail cam picture

The bobcat is the only native wild cat that we have in South Carolina. they generally weigh between 9 and 30 pounds. As you can see they are small but muscular with their hind legs longer than its front legs.

bobcat reconyx trail cam picture

They are very secretive cats and are nocturnal preferring thick wooded areas for hunting. Here in the mountains of South Carolina we have a good many bobcats.

bobcat

This was the last picture taken of the bobcat.

raccoons at night

Raccoons looking for foood.

Sunset and Icicles

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beautiful fall sunset

We had a perfect ending to a perfect day and as it begins, so it ends. A strong cold front moved across upstate South Carolina Wednesday evening that led to the most beautiful sunset. I caught these pictures from our deck just a few minutes before dark. The reflection of the sun on the clouds was beautiful.

fall sunset

The cold front spawned snow flurries and bitter cold temperatures. By 9:00 PM the skies were clear, the temperature read 22 degrees and gusty winds gave us a wind chill of 12 degrees.

fall icicles

I found the evidence of our cold night the next morning down at our mountain spring which is on the North Slope.

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Tips

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homemade Toll House chocolate-chip-cookies

…Mmmm!

There is nothing better than a good chocolate chip cookie and they are even better if they are hot right out of the oven! I think everyone loves a hot chocolate chip cookie. Most of us probably grew up eating the homemade Toll House chcolate chip cookies. I know I have eaten a lot of them over the years.

What makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie? Would you say the best chocolate makes the best cookie? Do you like them hot right from the oven?

As a child I got hooked on the original Nestle TOLL HOUSE Chocolate Chip cookie recipe because both my mom and grandmother always made them for us. My mom would mix up a double batch every few months and only cook a pan or two.  She would take the remaining batter and place it on plastic wrap in a log shape, wrap them really well and place the rolls in the freezer. When we wanted hot chocolate chip cookies she would take a roll out of the freezer and cook us a batch. This is such a great tip, I have been doing the same thing for many years and it is so convenient.

nestle-real-semi-sweek-chocolare-morsels

The recipe can be found on the backside of any package of Nestle

hot chocolate chip cookies

I have tried many different recipes and variation of the original Toll House recipe but I like the original Toll House recipe the best. My children love these cookies too. So here are my trial-and-error regular home cook tips for great Toll House chocolate chip cookies.

Use salted butter
Always choose a really good quality sweet cream butter. Taste it, if it taste really good then use it.

Melt the butter about half way
I usually melt the butter halfway or less using my pyrex measuring cup in the oven while the oven is preheating. It seems to be the key to a soft but a nice crisp edge cookie. If the butter is completely melted it will make flat cookies.

Butter should be at room temperature
After melting the butter to less than halfway, I put it straight into the fridge or freezer to speed up the process of getting the butter back to a soft solid. It only takes a few minutes but then I will also let it sit on the counter to get back to room temperature.

Brown Sugar
Be sure to use brown sugar in addition to the granulated sugar. A combination of both will give you a chewier cookies.

Pure vanilla extract
Use the finiest quality of pure vanilla extract. I like using a Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract. Better yet make your own vanilla extract. You can really taste the different.
Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract

Eggs should be at room temperature
Do not use cold eggs, make sure that they are room temperature. Don’t over beat the eggs, little beating with the sugar and butter is enough. I will beat lightly and then use a wooden spoon to finish mixing.

Chocolate and chopped nuts
Don’t be afraid to try something other than the regular chocolate chips. Maybe try a good semisweet chocolate chunk or E. Guittard dark chocolate or both. There is no reason why you can’t use more than one type of chocolate. Buy the best chocolate you can and be sure to taste it. Don’t be afraid to add chopped nuts, you can add them to just a few cookies instead of adding them to all of the dough.

Chill the dough
It’s best to chill the dough before scooping and baking. Two hours is good but 72 hours is better. Be sure to cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap so that the dough does not dry out. The chilling gives the dough a chance to bind.

Don’t over bake
DON”T over bake the cookies. I have a confection oven so I reduce the temperature from the standard oven temperature for using a confection oven. My oven has both standard and confection and also has a confection conversion button. The difference for most recipes is 25 degrees less. I use parchment paper which makes it easier when cookie multiple batches and helps with clean up.

Are you drooling yet?

hot chocolate chip cookies

I always make a double batch, cook a few and put remaining dough in the freezer like my mom did. Just be sure to wrap it good so you don’t get freezer burn. This way we can have hot chocolate chip cookies anytime when we have the craving! There is nothing better than a good hot chocolate chip cookie!!

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Yankee Drills

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north brothers yankee hand drill

I enjoy collecting a few old vintage and antique tools. The Yankee drill is one of my favorite antique drills. I can remember when I was a child my dad had one of these and I loved using it. All of these are the No 41, which was one of the most popular Yankee hand drills every made. These are hard to find in our area but all of these I found at garage sales.

north brothers yankee drill

As you can see they are in fairly good shape. What’s great about these is that all three of them still have all of their bits.

Yankee hand drill bits

All three boxes still had the original paper listing all the Yankee Tools that were available at that time.

yankee drill wax paper insert

You can read more about the history of the Yankee style push drills here.

If you have a Yankee drill or collect them, let me know.  If you have any for sale, I might be interested.

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