Monday, April 15, 2013

Where in the heck are the peepers?

The first day of trout fishing season in Northcentral Pennsylvania and, as always, we have to have a little snow.  Nothing but a few flurries, but snow nonetheless. I just love tradition, but this is one I could live without!  We haven't heard the "peepers" yet and the old wives tale says that the peepers have to freeze three times before it is officially spring. It sounds like this could take a while.

For those who have never heard of peepers, they are a tiny frog that makes a pretty loud peeping sound in the spring. We had a couple staying here one spring weekend a few years ago.  The wife come up from the farmhouse to the breakfast room in the morning excited about the "wonderful sound" she heard all night.  I explained about the peepers and she told me how she loved hearing them.  We can't wait to hear them because it's our sign that spring had sprung.  About a half hour later, in comes her husband looking like he's barely slept a wink and said, "What was that God-awful noise all night long?"  Talk about two differing viewpoints!

Joe and I, along with our daughter-in-law and grandkids, cleaned up the 3 miles of our road that we took responsibility for in the Adopt-a-Highway program about 15 years ago.  You can tell how far a 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew lasts coming from Coudersport.  Coming from the the town of Jersey Shore, it's been 69 miles without a rest stop, from the bottles with the other yellow liquid in them!

The cleanest road I ever saw was the Robert Byrd Highway in West Virginia, but about every 5 miles there is a sign that says the fine for littering is $3,000.00! Maybe that's the way to keep a road clean.

Maple syrup season is almost done.  The tree tappers like warm days and cold nights for the sap to run well.  We sure have had a bunch of cold nights, but only one warm day. I think we should have had a picnic that day...could be our only chance this year.  So, in honor of all the farmers around here that make the syrup we serve here at the B&B, today I made Maple-Rum Cream Sauce and Praline Bread Pudding for breakfast in the morning.  I try to have the sauce with Stuffed French Toast, but this morning we were out of it, so I took the time to make it. Got distracted, as usual, and boiled the cream over on the stove.  I got this recipe originally from the The Pioneer Woman's website.  The recipes I have tried of hers have all turned out very well.  She warned in her blog that it was addictive, but I didn't listen. Should have listened!  Didn't listen!  This stuff is good, way good. Put it on anything, pie, cake, ice cream, waffles, french toast, french fries (maybe not).
 I have changed the ingredients, but it is cooked the same as her Maple Whiskey Cream Sauce. I just like the taste of the rum with the maple better. I make a bigger batch and add some vanilla bean.

Maple-Rum Cream Sauce

3 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup light or dark corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2-3 Tbsp rum

In a heavy sauce pan, bring the cream, maple syrup, corn syrup and vanilla bean to a boil. Watch it closely and stir very frequently with a flat edged wooden spoon.  Keep it at a gentle boil for about 15 minutes. It will thicken as it boils, so keep it stirred.  Remove it from the stove and add the rum away from the flame.  It will get bubbly, but just stir and it will be ok.  Don't add the rum over the flame unless you are an experienced fire fighter.  It WILL catch on fire. The chefs on TV make it look neat, but in real life, not so much!
Bring back to a boil and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour into a jar, cover and chill before serving.  The sauce will keep for about 3 weeks in the fridge or until you have sneaked it all, whichever comes first.  It will thicken and cling nicely to a spoon, but you will have rum on your breath so don't get near anyone or they'll think you're a closet drunk.

Toss the vanilla bean pod you scraped out in a small jar with a cup of granulated sugar and 2 drops of food coloring, give it a good shake and let it sit for about a week and you will have colored vanilla sugar for tea or sprinkling on sugar cookies. Make mint sugar the same way, but with 6-8 mint leaves instead of the vanilla bean.

Herbs are starting to come to life in the garden.  One of my favorites is Lady's Mantle with its tiny serrated leaves.  The dew drops cling to the little points along the leaves for several hours of the day, looking like pear-shaped diamonds in the sunshine.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ok, who went on vacation and left a stupid groundhog, (we call 'em woodchucks here in the sticks) in charge of the weather?  Phil has no clue!!!  Actually, it's pretty normal March weather for us in Potter County, but why waste a chance to gripe about something? Joe is happy, happy, happy that it's still cold so the apple trees will hold back blossoming.  Last year when it got so warm early, everything got ahead of itself and then it froze all the new growth and blossoms off in April and even in May.  He already has some things planted in the high tunnel.  A couple of days ago, he brought in a peck basket of huge onions that had wintered over beautifully.  I sauteed some of those this morning and made an onion pie with Gruyere cheese and a breadcrumb and Parmesan crust.  It's wonderful!

 I also made a tomato pie. I have finally gotten that down to where I think it's as good, if not better than the one served at the Tomato Pie Cafe in Lititz, Pa.  If you ever get near Lititz, you have got to go to that cafe.  What really strikes me about any place, be it a restaurant, church, etc. is if it brings all different ages through its doors.  The Tomato Pie Cafe does that.  Neat decor and really good, simple food, made interestingly. I've been there twice, thinking about a third visit.  Joe will not be impressed as it is not prime rib and potatoes.  Oh, well, I guess I didn't marry him for his gastronomic acumen.  He can grow the garden and leave this other stuff to me. Next time I make the Tomato Pie, I will do all the proper measuring, take pictures and put the recipe in a post.

Winter is the time Joe will give me to do all my fussing in the B&B rooms.  I won't go so far as to say he likes doing painting and redecorating, but doesn't complain about it and actually finishes the projects he starts.  I know..weird, huh? A man that finishes things! He painted lots of woodwork and changed a bathroom sink.  Then we set about decorating...his favorite!  His comments consist mainly of, "You want me to move that? Where?!"  And the other one, "Have you lost your mind?"

Here's our Blackberry Loft with a four poster bed in it. This room is one of the original first two rooms we started with back in 1992.  It still has the same wallpaper and since the ceiling is pretty high, I will NOT be the one to hang off a step ladder to re-paper.  But for now it is still in amazing condition and it will stay for a while longer.

 Kind of plain, right? Comfortable, but too plain and "dated".  I had a big white mantel in the common room of the B&B that was a little more Victorian than I was happy with against the wood wall. but it looked nice to decorate for holidays.  I lived with it long enough, but I really preferred a wood mantel I had in the breakfast room.  So after a lot of lugging and tugging, kind words from Joe on my mental state, brackets installed and a bench built to keep the pillows from falling into the mantle, (which I didn't think of), here is the finished project.

I scoured the barn for a bedside table and found a sewing machine base with a marble top, but the other table is one that I hand painted a blackberry wreath on and I don't want to get rid of it. Love, love, love doing the decorating for this place! It won't be long before there will be warm days and I can tackle the porches.

So that is how I tortured the poor man that bakes sticky buns, raises beautiful gardens and puts up with my nonsense.  I have to keep him busy in the winter or he gets down in the dumps.  Hey, I'm just doing my part to keep him healthy and happy.

You might notice that I finally got the comment thingy working, I think.  Somebody try it please.

Keep your chin up.  Spring's acomin'!!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The bigger the pot, the more soup you have to give away.

It has been snowing for a few days here in God's Country, which tends to bring snowmobilers and skiers to the B&B. 

  It's beautiful because we haven't had a lot of snow this year, so we haven't got to the point where we go outside and scream at Old Man Winter to go back to his seasonal home and leave us alone.  There is a tiny town a little north of us, Gold, that used to have a celebration on Feb. 21st, when they did exactly that.  On the stroke of noon, they all went outside and yelled, "Hooty Hoo," at as many decibels as they could muster as a group, which is said to scare winter away. After the deed was done, they all went inside the old country store, shared a picnic lunch, played music and danced. People came from a wide area to celebrate Hooty Hoo Day in Gold.  I don't know if it was solely their doing, but winter has always gone away.

But for today, winter still has a kick in it, so I made some of my Italian Tortellini Soup.....In a big pot....More to give away.  Having raised 6 kids and some transplanted ones, I just cannot get used to cooking small amounts.  I thought my mother-in-law, Fern, was crazy the day she gave me all her big, heavy stainless steel pots and pans, only keeping the small ones for herself.  Her explanation was that if she didn't have the means to cook big batches, maybe she could get used to cooking for two.  She had raised nine kids here on the farm. Many years later I can totally see her point, but not to the point of giving my pans away! Not yet.

Anyway, here's the soup recipe.

Gail's Italian Tortellini Soup

In a large stock pot, over medium heat, brown together:
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage
1 pound of hot Italian sausage
1 large cooking onion, diced

Then add:
6 cups beef broth
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans cannellini beans, (white kidney beans) drained and rinsed

 Simmer the soup to give the garlic time to cook, about 20 minutes.  This gives a different flavor than if it was browned with the onions and sausage. At this point, I take some of it out and add it to some cooked brown rice pasta for our daughter, Tracy, who has celiac disease.  Then I throw some of the rest of the ingredients into that pot, as well. It makes a good gluten-free meal for her.

 Add 1 bag of Barilla dried 3 cheese tortellini. (I have tried frozen and fresh, but there hold their shape better.)
Cook the tortellini for about 5 minutes and add:
1 bag triple washed baby spinach or a 14 oz bag of frozen chopped leaf spinach

 Simmer until spinach is wilted and pasta is done. 
1/3 - 1/2 cup of pesto, to taste. Don't worry if you don't make pesto as it is readily available in supermarkets.  Many markets carry pesto paste in a tube in with the fresh herbs in the produce section.  If using the tube, cut the amount to 2-3 Tblsp. as it is very concentrated. If you can't find or make pesto (soooo easy) buy the fresh chopped basil in the little glass jars in the produce aisle and add more Parmesan.

 Ladle into bowls and grate fresh parmesan cheese over.

Garnish with garlic croutons or serve with a nice garlic loaf and a salad.
This recipe will probably serve 8 people. OR three or four people can clean out the pot and run off with soup in jars, so if you want to take a picture of a nice bowl of soup, attractively garnished, you had better act quickly.  I should have taken my own advice! It's gone.

So here is my rant for the week. For years I have been proudly declaring how beautiful Pennsylvania is,  that there isn't an ugly part of our state.  I go on and on about the mountains and the wide, rich valleys.  I have even been known to throw in a little tutorial about Pennsylvania's nine geographical regions, more than any other state in the union, if anyone shows even the slightest interest in such things. Few do, but I usually tell them anyway. I have pride in my state, my county, my town and in our property.

Well, I have to take back my proclamations of such beauty. Let me tell you.....there is an ugly part of Pennsylvania!  It's Philadelphia! Our daughter and son-in-law took Joe and I to the Philadelphia Flower Show on Monday and I was floored, which I seldom am. We hadn't been there for many years and we surely will not be going back unless we are bound and gagged and chucked headfirst in a burlap bag in the trunk of a car!

Ok, so here's my question.  Don't the residents of Philly have even a minimal amount of pride or any sense of responsibility in or for their surroundings?  Not even enough to carry an empty water bottle just a few more feet to a trash can? Can't just 3 or 4 people on a block go out once in a while and pick up the trash on their block or spray some Windex and wash a window? I know that pride is supposed to be a bad thing, but geez, oh, Pete!  Have a little bit in where you have to spend the majority of your time. If not for yourself, for your kids sake.  Where is the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce?  Why can't they start with the kindergarten kids to get families involved in cleaning up the trash.  They should send someone over to Lititz or up to Wellsboro to see how it's done on a small scale and adapt it to a city.  I'd better quit before I get in trouble.

But while I am on the clean-up wagon, why is it that if a property owner improves his/her house, the assessor will come and reassess and the taxes go up?  But someone can let things go till the roof is falling in and that's fine.  Let the rats move in, never mow the grass and that's alright.  If there is a tax hike for improving property, there should be a tax hike for letting it go to ruin.  Sometimes, it just a matter of a some time, not a lot of money. 

As soon as the snow melts and we get a warmer weekend, I will take the grandkids on the 2 miles of Rte 44 that we live on and pick up the trash.  Practically before we are done, someone will throw something out in that short of a distance.  Too bad property owners can't take care of their own road frontage.  It would help a little.

Enough with the ranting.  If everyone would listen to me like Joe does, life would be easier.  

Have a neat, trash-free day!


Friday, February 22, 2013


It’s a cool, misty morning in Frosty Hollow. The coffee is brewing. The oven in Gail’s kitchen is emitting wonderful aromas. Outside, the sun streams over the top of the hill and touches “a little piece of heaven in God’s Country,” beautiful Potter County in north-central Pennsylvania. Put yourself in this scene, strolling by the stream, relaxing on the porch at the farmhouse watching the fish jump in the pond...

Welcome to the new Frosty Hollow B&B blog! We hope you will return once we have had a chance to fill it with the beauty and wonder of our little B&B.