Tag Archives: country living

Low carb pizza

Low carb pizza

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, then you saw the recipe for the crusty artisan bread that I posted earlier.  My husband loves to make bread of all types, white, whole grain and multigrain.  Unfortunately, all this bread has consequences.  His doctor advised him last year to cut back on the carbs.  Drat!  No bread. No pizza.  Bah!

So I came up with this low carb version of pizza last year which is made from, yes, cauliflower.  Let me just preface this by saying, although we LOVE vegetables in this house, I doubt that a cauliflower has ever crossed our threshold since we’ve lived here…30+ years.  Blech.  A white vegetable that isn’t potatoes?  No way.

However, we are open-minded people so I did some research and this is what I came up with.  No, it does not taste like cauliflower…at all!  Yes, it does taste like yummy pizza.  If you’re watching your carbs, give this recipe a try.  You might like to make two crusts if you’re going to the trouble.  You’ll want to repeat this again.

Ingredients:

  • One large head of cauliflower
  • One egg
  • Goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Decorations for the actual pizza, your choice– your favorite sauce, herbs and spices, peppers, onions, olives, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, veggie crumbles, cheeses (Romano, mozzarella, etc.)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees
  2. Cut up cauliflower into same size flourettes

    Cauliflower flourettes

  3. Add ½ c water, cover with plastic wrap with one side open to let out steam, and steam in microwave until medium soft, about 15 minutes. You may need to stir these every five minutes or so.  It shouldn’t be mushy but just al dente.
  4. Run through food processor until just riced, (not mashed). You may have to do this in batches.

    Steamed flourettes after ricing in food processor, about 20 seconds

  5. Place riced cauliflower in clean, dry kitchen towel, stir a bit to let cool, then squeeze ALL the water out that you can. The more you squeeze, the crustier your pizza crust will be.

    Riced, steamed cauliflower in clean, dry towel before squeezing

    Squeezing out moisture from the steamed, riced cauliflowe

    Riced, steamed cauliflower after squeezing moisture out.

  6. Add egg, goat cheese, salt and pepper and stir.
  7. Press onto parchment-lined pan. You want about ¼ inch with a little higher crust on the edges.

    Cauliflower Pizza crust, baked

  8. Bake 20-25 minutes or until browned on the edges.
  9. Decorate pizza as usual with your favorite toppings.
  10. Lower temp of oven to 375 and bake for another 20-25 minutes until it looks like a pizza.
  11. Cauliflower Pizza, final, baked.

There you go! You’ll be surprised that you can actually hold this like a piece of regular pizza. It does NOT taste like cauliflower.  Manga!

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Crusty Artisan Bread

Crusty Artisan Bread

It’s been a raw and unpredictable March with rain, wind, snow, what have you.  If you’re still stuck indoors, here is a VERY EASY and VERY GOOD bread recipe. My husband is the bread maker around here and has many favorites, but this one seems to be a hit with everyone.

Don’t be afraid.  Just do it!  You don’t even have to touch the dough or knead it.  Perfect crusty artisan bread.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of dry yeast

Day 1

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to incorporate.  Cover well with plastic wrap.  Let sit out on the counter overnight (12-18 hours).

Bread in enamel pan

Day 2

You will need an enamel roaster pan with lid.  This should be small size.  The old speckled kind that your grandma used to have will be fine. (Our pan is elongated but a round one works fine, too.)

  • Put the roaster pan and lid into a cold oven.
  • Turn on the heat to 450 degrees
  • When the oven reaches 450 degrees, take out the pan (carefully) and sprinkle with corn meal. (No grease or oil.)
  • Pour the bread mixture into the hot pan, replace lid and bake for 30 minutes
  • Remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes
  • The bread should tip out of the pan easily. It will be crusty on the outside and moist on the inside.

You may add other ingredients when assembling on day 1, such as, dried herbs.

That’s it!  Serve with a pot of homemade soup.  Your friends and family will think you’re a genius.

Original art makes your house a home

Or…ten tips on decorating with art

I am astounded when I walk into someone’s house and they have nothing on their walls! What?!?  It’s like watching one of those home improvement shows and the final reveal shows nothing personal at all; just “wall art” that can be picked up at any decorating store.

Your home is your sanctuary.  It’s where you go to be you.  To be with your family.  If it doesn’t reflect who you are, then who are you?

Are you bohemian or modern?  Are you zen or kitschy?  Maybe you feel most comfortable with Swedish Modern or French Provencial.  Who are you?

Art adds so much to our lives but so many people are afraid to make a choice.  They’re afraid to make a mistake.  Afraid to put a hole in the wall to hang a painting.

So here are a few tips I suggest for choosing art for your home.  Some but not all will ring a bell with you.

  1. Choose the largest piece you can afford and make it a focal point.  Make the colors of your decorating scheme around the painting if you wish.  (But it does not have to match the sofa!)
  2. Do you have a theme in mind? Maybe you collect bird or flower-related items? Landscapes of Nova Scotia?  All pink or red or orange works? Perhaps you just enjoy modern abstract.  Whatever floats your boat, do it.
  3. Group items. Maybe you don’t have that large focal painting, but you can make a focal area by grouping artwork.  They don’t have to be framed all alike, or maybe framed at all.  That’s okay.
  4. Don’t forget bookshelves and sideboards. You can tuck small paintings or artwork into unexpected corners.
  5. Change out your artwork. You don’t have to keep the same pieces up all the time. You can switch them around or change them out as your mood or the seasons dictate.
  6. Avoid too much matchy matchy. Maybe you like Norman Rockwell prints but do you need twelve of them?  Just saying.
  7. How is your family and love for them represented? Do you have a framed painting of a child’s masterpiece?  Try it.  You’ll like it.
  8. Buy what you love. So what if the art you love isn’t currently in vogue.  It’s your living space.  You can have what you want.
  9. Let your art collection grow and go with you. When you move to a new place, hanging your own personal touches will make it feel like home very quickly.
  10. Make your home a retreat. This is the place you can come to kick back and be yourself.

Art makes a house a home.

Random Thoughts on Saturday Night

Fire pit on Saturday Night

Random thoughts on Saturday Night

So I’m sitting outside by the fire pit on Saturday night thinking about this and that.  Cedar wood smells great in general but I smell like a smoked weenie.  Lovely.

I love listening to the sounds at night.  Earlier it was the yipping of coyotes in the big woods.  Then the hounds at the farm over the hill.  Then another hound chimed in.  And the sound of a distant train. My dog decided to add to the chorus. The temperature has dropped so the peepers have stopped.

Watching the kazillions of stars welcome the big moon. And then two planes crossing paths high in the sky.  I could just barely hear them go past.  This is a very rural county.  It boasts not having a single stop light so when it is dark out here, it is dark! I wish I had that app on my phone that identifies all the stars and constellations and satellites.

My thoughts drifted back to last weekend when we were being deluged with eight inches of rain.  The rivers here in southern Indiana are still swollen.

But Monday was sunny and warm.  I volunteered to help out with a school program at the arts center.  As I sat there enjoying the show, I thought how great it is that performers can perform and children can enjoy such programs.  What a wonderful world.

Tuesday was an even more gorgeous day.  My husband and I drove over to Huber winery for a tour, tasting and lunch, courtesy of our youngest son for an anniversary present.  It was a lovely day.  Can’t say much for Google Maps whose directions were sketchy at best. Oh, well, tour the countryside.

Wednesday was a bit rainy.  Indoor activities, shopping in town, and a meeting. Oh, and planted peas.  Ever hopeful for spring.

Thursday, gusty winds and some rain squalls.  I tore down some fencing from the old chicken coop.  It was rusted and entwined with vines.  My eldest son is building a new coop on his place.  At first I was just planning to cut the rusty wire but then I decided to see if I could pull the metal posts.  These are damn heavy!  But with all the rain the ground was soft. I started to rock them back and forth, then pulled one.  Then another.  Constantly checking the trees above me to see if the gusty wind was going to drop a branch on me. The more I worked on the posts, the madder I got.  Finally, I got all the posts pulled out.  And the sun came out.  A feeling of accomplishment; man (or woman) against nature.

Friday I spent preparing for my son and his girlfriend who were visiting for the weekend.  Then lunch with friends.  And some time at the library using the free wifi and researching.  I’m planning on redesigning my website.  Not really looking forward to that but it’s time.

Picked up my granddaughter after school.  So sad that she’s moving out of state and I won’t see her for awhile. She’s such a sweet and creative child and I have had so much fun with her.  We will stay in touch via Skype and the phone.  And she’ll be back for the summer.

All the while, spring is sneaking up on us.  The daffodils and other flowers are coming out.  The grass is greening.  I manage to paint several hours a day.

So, that’s a week in my life in the country.  Random thoughts.  Be grateful for small things.  Enjoy.

Signs of spring

We are still several weeks away from the official beginning of spring, but the past few days have been unseasonably warm.  Mother Nature seems as eager as the gardeners to get on with the show.

First crocus. It seems as if it’s always the yellow ones which bloom first.

The first crocuses are blooming, always the yellow ones first.  They are sprinkled all over the property, courtesy of my kids and granddaughter.

Spring Beauties

Then the first spring beauties have made an appearance.  In a few more weeks, they will carpet the lawn with their dainty white and pink-striped blossoms.

Daffodils and other bulbs are poking up all over the place.  Fortunately, with so many varieties, their blooms are staggered over several weeks.

Finally, the rhododendron near the kitchen window is ready to pop.  These large blooms will be a joy to the eyes.

It is such a pleasure to walk around the property, spy on nature, and listen to the chorus of peepers down by the creek.  The warm days may not last but at least we’ve had a promise of spring coming soon.  The garlic is up.  The cold frame has been dug up and replanted with lettuce, spinach and kale.  I’m ready!

A yard full of spring beauties

Making do – old stuff

In this day of throwaway and disposables, sometimes I’m reminded of how precious the handmade and recycled objects of our lives can be.  This old house is over 135 years old.  The early homesteaders were very frugal and made the most of what they had.

Old sandstone stoop. See the chisel marks for the stone. The stoop was flipped over when it got worn so the bottom side shows more wear.

Here you can see the sandstone stoop for our back porch.  Although sandstone hardens with exposure to the air, eventually it will wear down.  In this area, worn out sandstone stoops are turned over to extend their lives.

Old sheet repair. Notice how finely this repair is made.

Here is a photo of an old sheet which received some very fine mending.  Would anyone do that today?  I doubt it.

Repaired window with old glazing.

This is a photo of a broken / cracked window.  Instead of having it replaced, a second sheet of glass, probably from another broken pane, was cemented to this one.

Handmade door closure on attic door.

The door to the upstairs attic of my studio has a hand-carved wooden lock and uses some kind of turned wood for a knob.

Sometimes living with the past makes one think more about the things we take for granted in our lives today. Next time you’re thinking of tossing something, give some consideration if it can be reused or recycled.

Jack Frost Visits

Jack Frost on my windowpane in the studio.

After a balmy winter holiday, the temperatures in the Midwest plummeted.  We recorded minus 4 degrees (F) this week.  Needless to say, I’m a wuss and am not spending much time outdoors.  However, even working in my studio has challenges.

As I have mentioned before, my studio is an old summer kitchen about 30 feet from the back door.  It was designed when cooking was done on wood-fired cook stoves (which it actually had when we moved here.)  This was to keep the heat out of the house in the summer.  You’ll find one of these buildings on many old farms in southern Indiana and throughout the Midwest and South.  I am lucky that ours is about 15 x 25’, which is pretty large for a summer kitchen.  In this case, the family and field hands actually ate in the building.  It is a perfect size for a studio.

Unfortunately, the whole purpose of the design was to keep the heat out of the house so they didn’t really care about insulating the building.  Thus, it’s very drafty.  Although I have a gas heater, unless I want to go broke, I keep it turned down.  This week I was wearing a hat, many layers of clothing, two pairs of socks (the cold comes up through the floor), and I was still chilly.

I snapped this photo of the beautiful patterns of the frost on the windowpanes.  It looks like giant feathers.  With all of our insulated windows and super-heated houses, window frost has become more and more uncommon.

The beauty of nature is all around us, even in the most unlikely places.

Since I was confined to studio painting, here are a couple of my recent works.  Plus, I tweaked the still life with red cabbage and artichokes that I posted on here a few weeks ago.  Artists are never quite satisfied with their finished work. Renoir was known to bring his paints to gallery exhibits even after his paintings were hung, just so he could make changes.  I’m not quite that bad but I might fiddle around with a painting which doesn’t quite suit me.

Here’s hoping that the weather is better where you are and that warmer days will be here soon.

Artist Still Life, oil on canvas board, 10 x 10, Kit Miracle

Down by the Creek, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Red Cabbage and Artichoke, 18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle. Still Life revised from previous version.

A Year of Change and Adventure

The Midwest has been locked in a deep freeze for the past few days and will continue to be for the next several.  This is a good time to snuggle in the warmth of the house with a hot cup of tea and reflect on the changes and adventures of the past year.

Leaving the office on the last day. Walls empty. Bulletin board empty. Most of the paperwork gone. Lots of memories.

The most dramatic change for me this year was my decision to retire last spring.  Leaving a job that I loved, my wonderful work family, and in the middle of an exciting new building project which had been on my wish list for a decade was difficult.  The hardest part was making the decision.  However, City Council approved the funding for our part of the building, the Library referendum passed, donors made huge commitments, and an energetic and intelligent young replacement was found.  I was able to walk out the door with a light heart knowing that Jasper Arts would be in good hands.

This left more time to pursue my own interests or get back to them.

First and foremost was my painting.  Although I’ve been a professional artist for over thirty years, job demands and time constraints meant there was less time for creative pursuits.  I never gave up my art but now I am able to devote as much time as I want to it, which is generally several hours every day.

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

My schedule is pretty much my own.  I can get up when I want but that’s usually pretty early. Hard to break that 5:30 a.m. habit.  Now I can linger over that second cup of tea and my commute is only 30 feet from the back door.

I have been catching up on ten years of projects (how often does one really need to clean out the attic?)  Satisfying but not usually on top of the To Do list.

Gardening is another passion.  This year I was able to get outside before the heat of the day instead of dealing with chores at the end of the day.  Very nice.

My bike is tuned up.  I used to ride 100 miles a week and hope to get up there again this coming year.

Reading, of course, is always high on my agenda and I have eclectic tastes.  No more business or fundraising books!  Yay!

A short nap after lunch is always a nice thing to insert into the middle of the day.  (Apologies to those of you who can’t take advantage of this.)

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

My husband and I took our first winter vacation in thirty years this year. Couldn’t do that when the kids were young and in school, then later when I was working because winter is the busy season for the performing arts.

The Huntress I – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

Our charming granddaughter was also able to spend much of the summer with us.  She loves the beach (of beautiful Lake Patoka nearby), anything to do with nature or bugs or animals, painting and crafting with grandma, and is game for just about any adventure.

At the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh

We traveled back to Pennsylvania to visit relatives.  While there I took her to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh where she could see real dinosaur bones up close.  She was elated.

And my husband and I took a fall trip back to Massachusetts to visit relatives. We visited the iconic Rockport sea town and stopped off at Stockbridge on our way back.  We also took a detour to Niagara on our return.  It’s big…and loud!

Rockport, Massachusetts

Niagara Falls

There were family barbecues, day trips to interesting places, some plein air painting, and just time to kick back next to the fire pit and enjoy the day.  What could be better?

So, goodbye to 2017.  It was a good year.  Now I’m making plans for 2018.

Stay tuned.

Cedar bench for the garden

Cedar bench featuring Southern Indiana cedar boards

Cedar trees are indigenous to southern Indiana and many parts of the Midwest.  An evergreen, they add color to the winter landscape.  They often grow on soil where other trees can’t seem to get a foothold, limestone, sandstone, and rocky.

This year my family surprised me with refinishing two cedar benches in the garden.  Although the benches were still serviceable, after 25 years, they needed an update.  This locally cut cedar was selected due to its resistance to insect damage and other wear.  I was told by the guys that even the old cedar boards were still in pretty good shape beneath the surface of lichen and weathered materials.

The iron bench supports were repainted and new boards were planed and sanded for this lovely look.  If you are not familiar with cedar, it has a wonderful smell which will fade in time as will the bright coloring to a silvery grey.

I’m looking forward to spending some time on these benches this coming year (whenever a gardener has time to rest).  They also are a reminder of my mother who owned the original benches so I guess they’re about 40 years old now. I remember many conversations we had on those benches over the years.

Deer Cam – Spying on Nature

This is a large male bobcat. A really spectacular picture. Although the males are only about 30 pounds, I wouldn’t want to run into one. And my granddaughter and I had just walked down the drive earlier that morning! Yikes!

One of my favorite gadgets is our deer cam or trail cam.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure…and surprise of catching many critters on camera.  I’ve moved the camera around the property several times but it seems that the most active spot is a place on our driveway where it crosses a creek.  There are woods on either side with some fields nearby.  Although much of the animal traffic seems to be at night, I’ve captured some pretty spectacular daytime shots, too.

Coyote with pear. Taken in back orchard this summer. About 40 feet from the house.

Check out the photos and enjoy a brief visit to my part of the world.  I’m not including all the neighborhood cats, multiple pix of my dog (and some other dogs), the delivery people and other vehicles and tractors.

By the way, a trail cam makes a great present to the outdoor lover in your life.  We have two cameras but I’d love to have more.

Buck in velvet this summer

Heron strutting down the driveway.

A very large rooster strutting down the drive. Probably an escapee from my neighbor’s chicken house.

Mystery critter. I had moved the camera nearer the house and it was also near our security light. I kept seeing this creature pass in front of the lens. I finally concluded that it is a photo of a bat in action. What do you think?

Is this my best side? I get so many photos of deer (deer cam, right?). The light is infrared so they can’t see it, but I think they hear it click when it takes a picture.

Two raccoons heading up the drive for a midnight snack. Probably the culprits for the losses in my neighbor’s chicken house. They are NOT cute. They are mean and vicious and can destroy a garden in a night.

A large coyote with a bite mark. I’d hate to see what gave it to him.

Coyotes often travel in packs. While usually shy, they were nightly visitors to our orchards this year.

Wild turkeys are very crafty and great survivors in the woods. They actually can fly and manage to raise a brood every year.

Many possums in the area. I don’t particularly like them but they are reported to eat thousands of ticks each day. That is good. They will also break into a chicken house and eat the eggs and baby chicks. Not good.

Groundhog. Not a desirable creature as they tend to dig out building foundations and otherwise become pests.

A standoff between a crow and a squirrel. It appears that the crow is holding something in his beak.

Night visitor. This is the scariest of all of the photos I’ve captured. The intruder is coming up the drive in the very early morning on Easter Sunday. (And, no, it’s not the Easter bunny!) With his knapsack and large knife, I hope that he was planning to do some mushroom hunting in the woods. But, also, the neighbor’s house was broken into that morning. Kinda creepy. Our dog was locked up unfortunately.