Friday, November 30, 2012

Squash Recipe #5: Maple Acorn Squash Slices

This week I wanted a recipe to use some of my acorn squash since those don't seem to keep quite as long as butternut squash do.  Personally, I'm not much of a fan of acorn squash; I think they're much blander than butternut.  So I try to avoid the usual sliced in half with butter and brown sugar way of preparing them.

Searching through my cookbook collection, I came up with a recipe that sounded pretty tasty.  I decided to make it to go along with a venison stroganoff I had planned for dinner.

The recipe comes from the 1999 Quick Cooking Annual Recipes book put out by Taste of Home.   In the cookbook, it's simply called Acorn Squash Slices, but to differentiate it from other sliced acorn squash recipes, I added the word "Maple" to the front of the title.

It's very simple to make, and it went marvelously with the venison stroganoff.  Without further ado, here is the recipe:

2 medium acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Wash your squash.  Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and guts, then cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices.

Place the slices in a greased 13" x 9" baking dish.  Sprinkle with the salt.

Measure out your maple syrup

and mix it with the melted butter.  Pour over the squash.  Sprinkle the pecans over everything.

Cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Homegrown squash with home made maple syrup.  Yum yum!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Much Anticipated Package

Earlier this week, I finally received a much anticipated package in the mail.  Back in September, I decided to join an online quilt block swap.  I've done a few in the past, usually where one or more of the fabrics to be used is mailed to you, then you make one block, and mail it back.  In one group I participate in, all the finished blocks are given to one randomly drawn winner from those who participated.  In another group, there were twelve of us who agreed to a year-long swap; each participant was assigned a month, mailed out fabric to be used for her month and a design request, then the other participants sewed a block each and mailed it back to that month's person.

For this newest swap, it was where a theme and fabric colors were given, and each participant used her own fabric choices and block of choice to fit the theme, then made one block for each of the participants signed up plus one block for the hostess of the swap.  All blocks were mailed to the hostess, who sorted them and mailed each participant back one block from each of the other participants.  In this case, 15 people signed up, so I made 16 blocks total (15 people plus an extra for the hostess).

In September and October we sewed.  At the beginning of November, we mailed the blocks, along with a return envelope with enough postage to get our 15 blocks back.  The hostess sorted them out, added an extra block to each of us as her gift to us, and mailed them back.  Everyone included delivery confirmation slips, and we all started tracking our packages once the hostess posted that she had mailed them at the beginning of last week.

Since the hostess was in Ohio, and I live in Michigan, and I'd used a priority mail envelope (and postage!), I figured mine might arrive the day before Thanksgiving.

It didn't.  According to the postal service website and my tracking number, it went from Ohio to Pennsylvania.  What??  How is Pennsylvania on the way north to Michigan??

Oh bummer.  Now I had to wait through the no-mail-on-Thanksgiving holiday to hopefully get my package on Friday.  Just in case, I checked the postal website on the night of Thanksgiving.  It said that my package had arrived at a sorting facility in Michigan, from Pennsylvania, that morning.  Oh joy!!  It would definitely show up in my mailbox on Friday then, right?

Nope.  On Friday, the mail came and went.  No package.  What the---??  Again, I got online and tracked my package courtesy of the postal service website.  To find that instead of arriving in my mailbox on Friday, my package had arrived at a sorting facility in Phoenix Arizona!!!  Ummm, hello?  Post office?  I think you made a mistake!  How does a package, addressed to a mailbox in Michigan go from a sorting facility in Michigan to Phoenix AZ??  Sounds like a waste of fuel to me.

All through the long weekend I waited. And worried.  And tracked.  At least by Sunday afternoon the website said my package was back in Michigan.  So, hopefully, not totally lost.

Finally, Monday afternoon, it appeared in my mailbox.  Hooray!!  All is right with the world!!  (Except I'm wondering why my 2-3 day priority rate package took almost a week and a long detour to get from Ohio to me here in Michigan.)

Anyway, when I opened the package, it was just like the best surprise party ever with the bestest friends ever.  Taking those quilt blocks out, one by one, admiring the skill that had gone into each and every one of them, reading the names and locations of those who had made them, that was like being surrounded by people who love you, all lined up to give you a hug.

Here is a picture of all 16 blocks as I laid them out on the living room floor when I opened the package.  The little white squares and rectangles are the name tags attached to each block, telling the name of the maker and where the block is from.

The theme was rustic/cabin (what you'd see in/around an old cabin), and the colors were the colors of autumn: golds, browns, greens, etc.  Blocks were made by wonderful ladies in MI, OH, TX, VA, NY, WA, OR, AL, AZ, MS, TN and Quebec, Canada.

Now I can't wait to be done sewing up Christmas gifts so that I can start sewing these lovely blocks together into a quilt.  Then my far away quilting friends can give me a hug every time I wrap up in it.  :o)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Squash Recipe #4: Squash Sticks (Squash "Fries")

Another first-time tried squash recipe for me.  We were having venison burgers for dinner after processing DH's 9-point, and I wanted something to go with them other than french fries or sweet potato fries.  With my abundance of squash, I wondered if I could make squash fries.

Apparently you can make squash 'fries'.  After searching the internet, I found several recipes for squash fries or sticks.  The deep fried ones were battered, which I didn't think I wanted to fuss with that particular day. So I chose one that you make in the oven.  Less mess, and more health, right?  ;-)

Another super easy squash recipe--hooray for super easy recipes that don't say "take a can of this and a box of that. . ."!!

All you do is take your butternut squash, peel it, cut it open, scoop out the guts, cut into sticks that are about 1/2" thick, put them in a baking dish in a single layer, drizzle on some olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, then put in a 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

That's all there is to it.

As you can see, there wasn't much left of two medium size squash once we were done with dinner.  The squash sticks reheated well the next day and I ate them for lunch. :-)

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Tongue In Cheek Look at Thanksgiving

Last year, I had the most wonderful Thanksgiving.  DH and I had decided to forego family obligations (you know, the agonizing decision over which side of the family we would eat with for the holiday, or if instead we were going to host both sides at once at our house so no one could be jealous. . . ) and we declared we would be staying home without hosting anyone.

Horrors!!  You would have thought we were just the most awful people ever.  And our relatives pretty much told us so without using those exact words.  But at this little place here, it was a nice, calm, thankful day.  We had a good meal, to serve five instead of 15-20.  The house was quiet, not chaotic with multiple conversations going at once, each trying to drown out the other.  The under-eighteen set was well-behaved, not bouncing off the walls or picking fights with each other.  We ate.  We talked. We went deer hunting.  We relaxed.  It was, truly, a day of thoughts that dwelt on how good we have it; how blessed we are and how much we love the people we were with.

In contrast, this year we gave in to the familial pressure and invited both DH's side and mine to attend.  And immediately had to justify the time of day we'd chosen to serve the meal. (1:30 p.m.)  Why so early?  Because DD1 and her boyfriend wanted to be able to attend both our Thanksgiving dinner, and the one his family was having 3 hours away, that's why.  After all, the only reason DH and I gave in was to make it easier to for the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to all see both of our college kids who would be home on break.  No "how come I didn't get to see him but his other grandma/aunt/cousin did?!?"  This was a decision we made in September after being told numerous times by numerous relatives: "make sure I get a chance to see DS2 and DD1 when they are home for Thanksgiving".

This Thanksgiving it was pretty much impossible to relax or even have a thankful attitude.  Not when you're doing your best to be hospitable and give everyone an equal chance at the holiday, yet everyone is complaining at you.  And half of the relatives who "had" to see the two college kids on their short break didn't even come!!   Then there was the relative who said "what can I bring?  Rolls?  I'd like to bring rolls. I'll bring rolls."and showed up without the rolls she'd insisted I didn't need to make because she would bring them (and several others asked me during the meal "how come you didn't serve rolls?  Rolls would have been good.")   How about the under-eighteen relative who was abusing the furniture in a way my own kids would never dream of, yet his parents were offended when he was told to stop by a cousin (one of my kids).

It definitely was not relaxing, and I don't think any of the inhabitants of this little place here had a single thought about how blessed we are to have the relatives we do.

Anyway, the day before Thanksgiving, as DD1, DD2, DS2 and I were baking pies and cleaning the house in preparation for hosting relatives on Thanksgiving Day, we got a little punchy while discussing the situation and the pressures we were getting from our kin.  The discussion, begun by the 19 year old engineering student, was about the real reason for having Thanksgiving, and how most people don't seem to get it anymore.  How Thanksgiving is not about driving for hours to eat with relatives that you don't bother to see any other time of the year but holidays.  The 18 year old college freshman who aspires to be a Christian school teacher added that Thanksgiving is about being grateful to God for what you have. And the 15 year old high schooler, with amazing mature insight, said that Thanksgiving, which should be a time of celebration, is more often looked upon with dread.

It was after that we began to get punchy, imagining if the first Thanksgiving had gone something like this:

Mercy and Hope are at Plymouth, looking around at the bountiful harvest of food that they grew in their gardens that year.  

Mercy says, with brow furrowed, "what in the heck am I going to do with all these pumpkins?  The kids hate pumpkin."

Hope replies, "My pumpkins did well too, and so did my sweet potatoes.  I wish sweet potatoes stored as long as pumpkins do; if they did we wouldn't have to eat them all up so fast.  I can only make so many variations of sweet potato for dinner. Dear husband William is getting sick of them."

Mercy gets a bright idea.  "We ought to have a big party.  I'll bake some of these pumpkins into pies.  You cook up a bunch of your sweet potatoes and bring those.  We'll invite all the residents of Plymouth.  Everyone can bring something; and we'll have a potluck.  I hear that John Smith is good at hunting turkey, maybe he'll bring a few.  I love turkey."

Hope smiles.  "That's a great idea!  I'll see if Patience is willing to make a bunch of corn bread.  Her corn field was loaded this year and she has tons of corn waiting to be ground and used." 

Hope goes off to start talking to the other wives of Plymouth and get this party in the works.

Meanwhile, Mercy tells her husband, Bartholomew, what they have planned.  He agrees it's a wonderful idea, as he is rather tired of pumpkin and loves sweet potatoes and corn bread. Plus, he's lousy at turkey hunting and would love to eat some.

Later that day Bartholomew bumps into the minister of the colony, with whom he shares the news of the upcoming feast.  Reverend Holierthanthou puts in his two cents, reminding the man that without God's providence, there would not be an abundance of corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes or any of the other bumper crops the pilgrims experienced.  

As Reverend Holierthanthou gets involved with the planning of the feast, it becomes not just a party given as a way of using up the foods certain wives have more of than they personally want to eat, it becomes a religious festival.  And the guest list grows.

Mercy and Hope meet up the next afternoon, after all the colony have been informed of the big meal coming up on Thursday.

"Can you believe it?" Mercy says in annoyance.  "Holierthanthou says it wasn't my green thumb that made all those pumpkins grow, it was God.  Now we have to say a prayer at our party, giving thanks to the man upstairs for my pumpkins.  As if I wasn't the one who planted them, weeded and watered them, harvested and stored them and now cooked them into pies so Holierthanthou can have dessert!"

"I know!"  Hope huffed.  "Not only that, but we have to invite those dang Indians who gave us food last winter when we were all starving to death.  I don't even like them!  Their clothes are so unfashionable, and they let their children run wild!  But no, we have to invite them to our party and be polite.  Ugh."

Mercy rolls her eyes.  "I wanted to have Aunt Prudence and Uncle Thurlough over, but they can't make it.  I mean, yeah, it's a long boat ride from England, but it's Thanksgiving!  What could be more important to them than coming to eat with me that day?"

The big day rolls around, and all the pilgrims and Indians gather to eat the meal together.  Several Indian women pick at the turkey the pilgrim women prepared, the squaws commenting to each other that they can cook turkey better than the white women can.  Uncle  Isaac sits next to Uncle Moses, each trying to outdo the other with loud boasts about how he can chop wood better than the other man can.  Aunts Priscilla and Constance look at their children running around and bicker over which sister has the worst behaved children.  Everyone has fake smiles on their faces as they either endure inane conversation, outright bragging, or barely veiled barbs aimed their way.  Children whine about being bored and wanting to go home, no they don't like stuffing, and why can't they have a fourth piece of pie?

The feast is such a disaster and so unenjoyable that the pilgrims decide to never repeat it again.

Nope, I don't think that's how Thanksgiving originated, with grumbling and one-upping, and grudges held against relatives who couldn't make it at that day and time for the meal.  Why in the world would we have continued it for almost 400 years if it had?  The dilemma for many of us is how to change it back, from it's modern day obligation, to it's founding principal of community, fellowship and gratefulness for the health and food that we have.

I haven't figured out how to accomplish that yet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Deerless Hunting Adventures

No deer for me yet.  DH did take a beautiful 9-point that I'd had my eye on the last half of bow season.  But, alas, I'm not a bow hunter (although I'm thinking of getting out the old compound bow and brushing up on my skills, as well as replacing the broken sight on it).  So my first opportunity to go out and stalk the big buck was opening day of firearm season.  And, unfortunately for me, Mr. Big, Buff, and Beautiful walked past DH's stand first.  Waaaaaahhhh!!!  So I don't get to claim the awesome rack for myself.  I do, however, get to enjoy all the meat that came off the deer, which dressed out at 150 pounds.

Here's a trail cam picture of the 9-point just a few days before his demise at the hands of DH.

While I haven't yet had the opportunity to see a deer at close enough range, in the open, to get a shot at it, I did have a little excitement the other day.  I was sitting in the new platform aka the kids' old play set, when something tawny colored, about the size of a large fawn, and very quick, came running through the brush about 10 yards away.  Close enough that had it gone slower and I'd gotten a good look at it at the time, my heart really would have been hammering.  As it was, I just sat there in bewilderment, trying to figure out what I'd just seen.  It had been deer colored, and small deer sized, but very very quick and very quiet on it's feet.

I didn't think it was a fawn out by itself.  Not quietly like that.  Especially not quiet and moving so quickly.  I began to think perhaps it had been a coyote.  We have coyotes, but very rarely see them.  I've never seen one while deer hunting, and DH has only seen one once while hunting--it was chasing a deer at the time.

So I sat and wondered about this for a few hours, while watching for deer that never appeared.  Then I went into the house to warm up, change clothes, get something to eat and get some housework done before the afternoon hunt.

I hadn't been in the house but an hour when I glanced out in the field while carrying a hamper of dirty clothes down to the basement for washing.  I saw a large shape running on the edge of the woods.  For a second I thought about grabbing the binoculars to get a better look at it; then I decided to grab the camera instead.

These pictures are zoomed in, from my back deck, about 200 yards away into the field near the edge of the woods.  I wish they were clearer, but that's about as good as my camera gets at such a distance.

Now I knew without a doubt that what had gone blasting through the brush near my stand that morning was, indeed a coyote.  This one stayed in the field, hunting mice in the soybean trash for about twenty minutes while I took pictures of it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Squash Recipe #3: Squash and Quinoa Bake

Here's our third way to use up squash from your garden.  This is a recipe I'd copied a few years ago out of Sharon Astyk's book Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation (published in 2009) but hadn't gotten around to making it until now.  In the book, it's called "Creamy Quinoa and Butternut Squash".

The recipe says it serves four.  Since DH doesn't care much for quinoa (its a new thing for us and totally foreign to his raised-on-meat-and-potatoes palate), I made this on a night when it was just going to be me and DD2 eating.  I figured we'd have half the pan leftover, and that it would make a nice lunch for me for a couple of days.

Maybe we just weren't all that hungry or something, but the night I served this (and only this--since quinoa is high in protein, no meat was needed), we ate maybe 1/3 of it and were absolutely stuffed.  It ended up lasting for 3 meals each.  So I'd say it serves six instead of four.

Unfortunately no pictures to go along with the recipe, but here's the recipe if you want to try it for yourself.  DD2 and I both loved the flavor and the texture.  And we discovered that the leftovers are pretty good pan fried!

Creamy Quinoa and Butternut Squash
1 2-pound butternut squash peeled, cleaned and diced
1 cup quinoa
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp shallots (I used regular onion)
2 eggs
1 tsp sugar
1 cup yogurt
shredded cheese if desired (we desired; I used parmesan)

Steam the squash just until tender.  Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a colander and rinse it very thoroughly (5 minutes or so).  This is really important as quinoa has a bitter protective coating.

When the squash is tender, mash it and the quinoa together in a pot.  Add water and salt to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed and the quinoa 'blossoms' into little spirals.  Remove from heat and let rest.

While that is resting, heat olive oil over medium heat in a small frying pan.  Add the shallots (onion) and cook 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook a minute or two more, being careful not to let the garlic burn.  Pour this over the quinoa/squash mixture and stir in thoroughly.  Add eggs, yogurt, salt and pepper to taste.  Pour everything into a greased 8" x 8" pan and top with the cheese if using.  Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown.  If I remember right, that was 25 minutes (?? I confess, the original recipe doesn't state a length of time and I don't remember exactly how long I cooked it).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Looking at Trees (aka Deer Hunting)

For the past three days I've been getting up a good hour before dawn, putting on three layers of clothes plus a coat, and walking out to the woods to sit and look at trees.  Really, I've been deer hunting, but other than the first morning, I haven't seen many deer.  Mostly birds, and trees.  Lots of trees.  Little trees, big trees, apple trees, thorny trees, oak trees, living trees, dead trees. . .

I'm sitting in the 'new' stand we put out this summer.  It used to be our kids' play set, when they were little.  When they'd all outgrown it except the youngest one, I proposed to DH that it could be converted to an elevated blind and taken out to the woods.  Four years later. . . If I can dig up  some pictures of it in it's play set days I'll write a post about recycling a play set into a hunting blind.

Anyway, this new blind is situated just inside the woods, on the western edge, not quite at the half-way point north and south.  From it, I can see partly into the woods, in a very thick cover area, and also a good portion of the north-south line on the eastern edge of the field.  Opening morning I saw 19 deer.  Unfortunately, none close enough to shoot and  no horns,.  They mostly looked like this:

Can you see the deer?

Look again.  The picture below is the same, except I enhanced it with some helpful arrows.

Can you see the shape of the deer's back and hindquarter through the brush now?  That's pretty much what I saw.  Movement and outlines through the branches.  A few deer ventured into the field, but they were way out there, more than 100 yards away.

So, mostly, I looked at trees.  And took pictures.

My east shooting lane as the sun came up.

The field (west) as the sun was rising.  There was a light fog over the field.

Looking northwest, the direction I did see deer, way off in the field.  The camera didn't pick them up.

An abandoned bird nest in the apple tree behind me.

Kicking back, waiting for deer.  This was about three hours in to a 5-hour sit.

Female cardinal

View to the south.

Chickadee in the weeds, it was eating the seed heads off dead flowers.

My new hunting palace.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How I Became a Deer Hunter

I wasn't always a hunter.  In fact, twenty-two years ago if you'd asked me if I saw myself ever hunting deer, I would have told you "No."  I hadn't grown up around hunters. No one in my family hunted, and none of my parents' friends were hunters. The only gun I'd ever shot was my brother's BB gun, and he'd only let me get my hands on it once or twice.  The only time I'd ever eaten venison was one little bite sized piece during a first grade Thanksgiving feast at school; someone's father had gotten a deer, their mother had cooked it and sent in a small amount for the class to have in order to make our Pilgrim meal authentic.  I don't remember how it tasted, but I do remember that it was tough and hard to chew.  So, no, I would have never pictured the future me as an avid hunter and lover of venison.  Let alone someone who's main red meat is venison.

That all changed when I met my DH.  The first meal he ever cooked for me was venison.

And when I say the meal was venison, that's all it was.  A whole pile of chicken fried venison steaks.  No veggies, no starches, not even milk to drink.  A platter of venison.  For a girl who'd taken cooking in 7th grade home ec and knew that every meal needed a protein, a starch, and a veggie, I was shocked to find just meat being served.  Who in the world called a pile of meat a meal?  How was that nutritionally appropriate?  And who would think that was a meal fit for a guest?

I was still a pretty picky eater back then, with a very limited menu, and I was quite thrown off my stride looking at what was on the table for my dinner.  Recalling my one and only previous time eating venison, to say I was less than excited to see a pile of it before me, with no other food options, would be a vast understatement.  But, as every girl in love will do, I ate some anyway, because I wanted to make him happy.

Oh my!  Was that venison good!  DH had not only pounded the meat to tenderize it before frying it, but he'd seasoned it with onion powder.  Yum!  From that point on, I was transformed into a venison eater.   Step one on the slippery slope, LOL.

Almost ten months later, at our first Thanksgiving together, my evolution into a deer hunter continued.  We were in DH's hometown for Thanksgiving break, at Mother-in-Law's house (because Thanksgiving is deer season and the family hunting property is just down the road from her house), and hanging in her garage was a freshly harvested deer.  So now I saw my first dead deer.  Okay. Step two, check.

Then I got introduced to processing a deer.  It seems that it was customary for DH's relatives to cut up their own deer.  And, since DH and I were in town for the holiday, and there was a deer to be cut up, we were both given sharp knives and a hunk of deer to process.  Now not only had I eaten venison and liked it, seen a dead deer hanging and not been repulsed, but I had touched and cut deer muscles into steaks.  Not bad.  Step three, taken.

Also during that Thanksgiving break, DH got called in to help an elderly friend of the family field dress a deer that this friend shot while we were in town.  I, being the curious and adoring girlfriend, of course went along with DH.  That was were I saw (and smelled) deer guts for the first time.  I was given a flashlight, and two hind legs.  I was instructed to hold the hind legs apart and shine the flashlight down on the deer's nether regions so DH could cut it open.  Rather than gagging, I found it interesting, in a scientific anatomical kind of way.  Step four, and I'm picking up steam!

A year went by. Thanksgiving break rolled around again. We were, again, at Mother-in-Law's for the holiday and hunting.  (I should probably mention that we were sent home that first year with several packages of venison for our freezer, which we cooked meals with for a couple of months).  This time, DH asks if I'd like to go sit out in the deer blind with him.  Would I?!?  I've eaten them, seen them dead, helped gut them, and help cut them up.  Sure I'd like to see what it's like to hunt them!  That decision was step five, and the point of no return had been reached.

Well, the main thing I remember from my very first trip to the deer blind, is that hunters don't stay awake the whole time they are sitting out there!  I was shocked when, after an hour or so (of seeing nothing), DH fell asleep.  I, however, was wide awake, not wanting to miss sighting a deer, should any happen to walk by.  None did.  But little pine trees and other brushy things look amazingly like deer in the twilight of dusk, and spotting something like that out of the corner of your eye sure can make your heart race!

Another year went by.  Thanksgiving again, but by now DH had graduated college and we were living only about an hour and a half from Mother-in-Law.  DH also had a job, which meant we could only see her/hunt only for a few days instead of an entire week.  We also had an infant son, so I was limited in my availability to go out hunting with DH.  DH, however, had a new spin on my 'hunting':  why didn't I sit in a blind by myself?  I can feed the baby, leave him with Mother-in-Law, and then get in a little hunting before it's time to feed him again.  I won't interrupt DH's hunting then with my coming and going from his blind.

Well, because me sitting in a blind by myself wouldn't increase our chances of taking a deer home with us.  You see, I'd only ever shot a BB gun, and it had been well over 10 years since I'd done that.  Something DH hadn't known.  Or, maybe I had told him at one point, but he had forgotten.  Anyway. . .

Shooting lessons ensued, in the very short, basic form (don't point this end here, here or here; the bullet goes in this part, this is how you load it, this is how you rack it into the chamber (although I think that particular gun was a bolt action),  this is the safety, this is how you hold the gun, this is how you aim, this is how you release the safety, now pull the trigger.

I believe I shot 3 times, DH shot 3 times, we examined the target up close and saw my grouping was tighter and closer than his grouping, and he pronounced me "good enough."

Scary, huh?  Now we've got an inexperienced, armed woman in the woods alone!  I am now definitely in the realm of 'those' people, the hunters.

For ten years, I didn't hunt much.  Like maybe 2 or 3 sittings during the entire two week firearm deer season.  I had an increasing number of kids who needed attending, and when I could find someone to babysit them for me for a few hours, I could only hunt if 1) there was an available deer blind at the family property and 2) I could borrow someone's gun because I didn't own one of my own (nearly 20 years since my first shooting lesson and I still don't own one of my own. . .) and 3) I could borrow someone's warm orange clothing!

Then we bought this little place here.  And it all changed.  For one thing, DH promised me I'd never have to go to Mother-in-Law's for Thanksgiving again (because now we owned our own hunting land).  For another, I could walk out my back door and into the woods, and, as the property owner, I had first dibs on any of the blinds or tree stands (well, second dibs, DH gets first).  For a third, my kids were old enough to stay in the house supervising themselves for a few hours at a time while I hunted (we used two-way radios in case they needed to get a hold of me).  And fourth, DH bought himself a muzzle loader (to extend his own hunting season) but this also meant there was always a gun available for me in November.

I began to accumulate my own hunting accoutrements.  First, a warm orange hat and an orange fleece vest.  I wore my barn carhartts to the woods with the vest over top.  Then, later, as I collected bargains at garage sales or late winter clearances, my own warm camo coat and gloves.  I still borrow guns, my children have accumulated them instead of me, but that's okay.  We have enough now that one is always available, and depending on who is at school or work, I have my choice between a 12 gauge with or without a scope, a 20 gauge, or a 50 cal. muzzle loader.  So far, I've taken deer with the scoped 12 gauge and the open-sights 20 gauge (at 60 yards dead on!).  I've taken the muzzle loader many times (on the evenings DH has to work during muzzle loading season, I'm the armed one manning the tree stand), but so far have not had the chance to take a deer with it.  Those late season deer seem to be few and far between around here.

And that is how I became a deer hunter.  I figured if I was going to do the work of cooking it,  gutting and cutting it, tracking it (somewhere along the way I was called in to track deer too), I could be the one to shoot it.  So I hunt.  And I greatly enjoy sitting in the woods on a brisk fall day watching the wildlife and relaxing--relaxing until a big deer walks into my sights, that is!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Squash Recipe #2: Squash Gnocchi

Yesterday I made my second squash recipe to share with you.  It's one I came across somewhere, thought it sounded good, and scribbled down.  When I say scribbled down, I mean I cut out all but the pertinent facts like measurements, temperatures and cooking times.  So if it seems to assume you know a lot about cooking, well, I scribbled it down for me and after 20+ years of cooking daily, I do know a lot about cooking.

If you don't know what a 'gnocchi' is, it's basically a type of dumpling; that is, flour and seasonings with a little liquid to bind them together, and then boiled until cooked through.  And it's apparently pronounced "nyawki", even though I always want to say "notchee".

I'll warn you, it's not a quick recipe to make even though the gnocchi cook fast.  I do however, think it could be partially made in advance, and then cooked later in the day or the next day, which I might try next time I make this particular recipe.  Because I will definitely make it again.  I liked it, even if DH isn't fond of dumplings.

Squash Gnocchi
1 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled, and boiled until tender
1 cup squash cooked and pureed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (I buy mine in wedges and fresh grate it)
1 egg
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour (or more)

Mash the cooked potatoes, then let them cool.  When cool, mix in the squash and all remaining ingredients except the flour.  Add the flour about 1/3 cup at a time until dough is smooth and sticky (mine was pretty sticky, consider yourself forewarned!).  Briefly knead dough in bowl until the flour is mixed well.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.  While the water is heating, divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope about 1/2" in diameter.  (Mine was fat, more like 3/4 to an inch in dia.  I was exceeding the time I'd allotted and having trouble rolling thinner.)  Cut into 1/2" pieces. Press back of fork into each piece to make shallow grooves.

Add the pieces (I did about 2 'ropes' worth at a time) to the boiling water.  Stir gently so they don't stick to each other when you first put them in the pot. Then leave alone until the pieces rise to the top of the water.  Once they float, boil them about 3 minutes more.  Remove with a slotted spoon, and put into serving dish while cooking the remaining dough pieces.

Serve with sauce.

I made a basic white sauce to go with mine (1/4 cup butter, melted; 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 cup or so of milk) and stirred in fresh grated Romano cheese (about 1/3 cup) until the cheese was melted, then poured it over the gnocchi in the serving dish.

gnocchi before I added the sauce
(not sure why this picture turned out so yellow, they aren't quite that brightly colored)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Can Make Hot Dog Buns!

I've been making bread for years.  Dinner rolls for years.  Pizza crusts for years.  Bread sticks for years.  But  until recently, I'd never tried making my own buns.  Somehow, it was just easier to spend a couple of dollars at the store to buy them rather than making them.

However, it has become difficult the last few years, to find buns I've been satisfied with.  The quality seems to be lacking.  Who wants to eat a bun that feels like mush in your hand, never mind in your mouth?  Not to mention just about every brand now seems to need high fructose corn syrup to make their buns with.  HFCS has been on my 'avoid list' since before the media came out with a negative stance on it.  Like a lot of processed sweeteners, HFCS and my body just don't get along.  I'd rather not have a headache every time I want to eat a hot dog or hamburger with a bun, thank you.

So, I finally got desperate enough to look for a recipe for buns, and give making them a try.  And, like a lot of things I was afraid to do until I did it once (using my pressure canner, making refried beans from scratch, canning corn, roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, shooting a gun, fixing a car without my DH there to show me how, kayaking. . .), making buns is not difficult.  Actually, it's rather easy.  Not scary at all.  I can't believe I didn't try it years ago.

The recipe is simple:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter

Place those three in a small saucepan and heat on low until the butter is melted and the mixture reaches 120 degrees.

4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast (or one packet)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

Mix 1 3/4 cups flour and the rest of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add the warm milk mixture and the egg.  Stir well and add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring between additions.  Knead the dough about 5 minutes, then divide into 12 pieces.

Roll each piece into a 6" x 4" rectangle.  Then roll into a 6" long bun, and seal the ends.  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Allow to rise 20 minutes, then bake 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove from baking sheet when done and allow to cool on cooling rack before cutting 2/3 the way through each bun.

Great texture, hearty and filling, and no headache!

Friday, November 9, 2012

If You Give a Girl a Fire Stick

I'm sure you've heard the saying "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."  At this little place here, we now have a variation of this saying.  If you give a girl a fire stick. . .

First, I should probably explain what a 'fire stick', in this little place here terms, is.  A fire stick is simply one of those little butane fireplace or grill lighters with a trigger on it.  Not sure which of my offspring coined the phrase fire stick in their younger years, but it stuck.

Why give a girl a fire stick?  Well, our cook top is propane, and, in 2003 when we got it brand new for our house we built, it had electric ignition:  you turn the burner knob to 'lite', the cook top sends an electric pulse through a ceramic piece with a wire in it (kind of like a spark plug in a car) and at the same time the gas valve is opened, so the spark ignites the gas to light the burner.  After about four years of daily use, the electric ignition went bad.  At which time I started using kitchen matches to light my stove the old-fashioned way:  strike match, stick match down in burner, light gas, quickly remove fingers from burner!

DH considered replacing the electric ignition, but, well, the economy was getting bad, and things were rocky with the auto industry in which he was employed.  Money was tight and the possibility of him losing his job due to downsizing was great, so we decided that matches were just fine, we didn't need to spend money on replacing the electronics.  He did consult my uncle, who managed several branches of a propane company for over twenty-five years (and used to do many service calls for customers), on the cost and difficulty of replacing the ignition system ourselves, and my uncle said:  "You've heard of matches, right?  If it were my stove, I'd just stick with lighting it by a match."

And so we did.  Which wasn't a problem, until DD2 got old enough that we started to expect her to help with cooking (my kids start cooking simple things on their own about age eleven or twelve on the stove; baking comes much earlier).  She was just plain scared of lighting the stove with a match.  As long as someone else was around and willing to light the stove for her, she'd cook.  But she just could not light the thing herself.

Try as I may, I couldn't teach her to be calm and light the stove.  I could light the match and she'd turn the knob for the burner, releasing the gas.  She'd even light the match herself.  But when it came to lighting the match and holding her hand down on the edge of the burner to get the flame close to the gas valve, forget it.

When she turned fourteen, and only one of two children left living a home, I had the brilliant idea to buy her a fire stick.  We'd had one in the past for lighting our old grill that the ignitor was shot on, but it had long ago died, and we'd replaced the worn out (and rusted out) grill  with a newer used one we got for free (former tenants of DH's sister and brother-in-law left it behind when they moved).  So I bought a brand new, shiny red fire stick, wrapped it up, and gave it to DD2 with her other birthday presents.  Rather an usual gift for a kid:  something that makes fire.

She was so excited!  Until she went to use it.  This particular brand of fire stick is very safety conscious.  Wouldn't want children getting ahold of it and setting their house on fire, now would we?  The 'safety' on the fire stick was so hard to use that DD2 couldn't hold the safety button down far enough with her thumb to pull the trigger with her finger and have a free hand to turn the knob to open the gas valve on the stove with.  In fact, I could barely do it either, and I'm stronger than your average woman (I don't need no man to open my pickle jars, lol).

Well, darn.  So much for my great idea.  That fire stick went to DH, who used it for lighting brush piles and other stuff outdoors.  For many months, DD2 only cooked if someone else lit the burner for her.

Late this summer, I got another brilliant idea: I would find a less safe fire stick, and buy it for DD2!  By less safe, I mean one with a safety that even a toddler could push.  Which wasn't so easy to do, given the fact that my shopping options in a 20 mile radius (how far I normally am willing to drive for an item) pretty much carried the uber-safe brand of fire stick.

I finally found one, though.   I brought it home and gave it to DD2, who instantly lit it with ease.  With excitement, she proceeded straight to the cook top, turned the knob, and I swear the neighbors could hear her joyful proclamation:  "I LIT THE STOVE!!!  I LIT THE STOVE!!"  

She no longer fears the cook top.  She makes her own hot water for tea frequently.  She cooks when asked to do so.  And just the other day, she told me that she wants to cook even more often.  Like dinner once or twice a week!

She is empowered!

If you light the stove for a girl, she cooks once.  If you give a girl a fire stick, she cooks for a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Squash Overload!

It was apparently a good year for growing squash at this little place here.  I pulled them all out of the garden a few weeks ago, loaded them onto my cart (Christmas present from DH and the kids a few years ago--I get the most unusual and useful presents!), and put them in the garage to cure.

This is how many I had when I was about half done with picking squash:

As you can see, I harvested some broccoli that day too.  I had to take the broccoli back out of the cart, because I needed more room for squash.  It ended up looking like this:

I have acorn, butternut, long island cheese, and some smallish (but not pie pumpkin small) pumpkins.  That's a lot of squash.  Going on having 26 squash in the fall of 2011 and intending to eat them all before spring, which we never actually did, I think I need to plan to serve a squash dish at least once a week from now until next summer!

So, dear readers, I'm going to enlist you and the power of peer pressure to help me make sure I don't let my wonderful harvest of squashes go to waste.  Not that they actually get wasted; ones too shriveled for human tastes go to the chickens, who absolutely adore squash.

My plan is to make a post once each week reporting to you what my squash dish of the week was.  How it went over with the family, and what recipe I used.

I'll start off easy with our favorite squash-as-a-side-dish recipe.  (It's what we're having tonight with oven-fried chicken and a rice pilaf.)

Steamed Butternut Squash

  1. Take one butternut squash of any size.  
  2. Peel it (pain in the a** to peel an uncooked squash, but DH hates having to remove the peel once it's cooked and on his plate).  
  3. Then cut it open, remove the 'guts' and seeds.
  4. Cut the flesh into large chunks, or smaller, depending on your wishes.  Smaller ones cook faster, but larger ones take less time to cut up.  Me, I'd rather spend an extra 10 minutes cooking than cutting. 
  5. In the bottom part of your steamer (I'm assuming you have a steamer that is like a double boiler, only with holes in the floor of the top pot.  That's what I have) put about an inch of water.
  6. Place squash chunks into a steamer basket/top pot. 
  7. Put the lid on the steamer, put on the stove, turn heat to high.  Once you can hear the water in the steamer boiling, turn heat to low--without removing lid, keep that steam in there!--and let cook for about 20 minutes.  If you went with large chunks, it might take 5 or more minutes longer than this.  When squash is fork tender, it is done.    

 Serve with butter and salt.  I just dump all the cooked squash chunks into a serving bowl, and we mash them on our plates, then put on butter and sprinkle with salt.  You could, if you want, mash or puree the squash before bringing it to the table.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hunting It Was The Easy Part

It's been a little over a week since DH shot his buck.  The one we spent a few hours tracking; first an hour and a half in the dark, by flashlight, then another half hour or more by daylight the next morning.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Two

Then, once it was found, it had to be drug from the woods, field dressed, and loaded into the tractor bucket to be brought to the house.  So, roughly another hour.

At the house, the gut cavity had to be rinsed out, then the deer had to be hung in the barn to 'age' for a day or two.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Three and a half
While it hung, I washed the heart and made it into pickled heart.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Four
After the deer had hung for a day and a half, DH and I skinned and quartered it.  This took about an hour.  We took the quarters (and loins!) into the house, because my big butcher block island is a great, clean place to debone and package a deer.

  • Hours of Work For Meat = Five

At this point, DH put on his cammies and headed to the woods for the evening hunt.  I, however, stayed in the kitchen, and deboned an entire deer by myself (yes, I am awesome, thank you!).  This took me about two hours.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Seven
Since it wasn't all that tender of a deer, DH and I had all ready decided we were going to make sausage out of most of it.  That meant we needed to pick out the few choice muscles we wanted to cut into steaks and jerky strips, and cut the rest into chunks of a size that would fit through our grinder.  Add roughly another hour to do this; plus package up the steaks, loins, and jerky strips for the freezer (as well as trim the stuff DH had cut off while quartering the deer--like neck muscles and meat between the ribs.  I trim silver skin and fat as I debone, but DH is more of a 'hack it off' than an artisan in his butchering).
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eight
Then came the grinding of the meat. Which, since we have a commercial grinder, only takes about 15 minutes to run through 40-50 pounds of meat.  Much, much faster than when we used to use a KitchenAid meat grinder attachment.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eight point two-five.
Once the meat was ground, we decided to make two different kinds of sausage: summer sausage and hunter (or snack) sticks.

First, was the snack sticks.  That took awhile to start, because the casings for them wouldn't fit on the sausage stuffing tube that came with our grinder.  This was the first time we'd made hunter sticks, and hadn't anticipated that problem.  Some frantic searching through the cupboards for something small enough to fit the casings and suitable for forcing meat through a small opening yielded my cookie press.  Definitely not the purpose for which it was designed, but it did a great job.  Nine pounds of hunter sticks made in about two more hours.

After that, we seasoned the meat for summer sausage and stuffed those casings using the stuffer tube and grinder.  Roughly an hour to make 15 pounds of summer sausage.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eleven point two-five.
The rest of the ground meat I wrapped in freezer paper in one pound increments to use as burger in recipes that call for ground beef.  That took about fifteen minutes.
  • Hours of Work For Meat = Eleven and a half.

Eleven and a half hours!!!

Of course, if we were like most hunters, we would have stopped being involved after the tracking and field dressing of the deer, thrown it in the bed of the pick-up, and drove it to the nearest processor.  Then we would have shelled out a minimum of sixty-five dollars for processing,  three-fifty a pound for summer sausage (so $52.50)  and five-fifty a pound for hunter sticks ($49.50).  Oh, and grinding meat for burger cost $1 a pound in addition to the processing fee; I packaged 12 pounds of burger.  Can't forget to add that to the tally.

Had we gone the 'easy' route, we would have shelled out at least $179.  You can buy alot of beef for that.  Why mess with sitting in the cold and hunting deer?  Why not just stay warm and dry and watch tv, then run to the store for summer sausage, hunter sticks, and burger?

Except that when you do that (sit in front of the tv instead of in the tree stand, buy your meat instead of hunt it), you miss out on a whole lot, including your money!!  You miss out on the great outdoors.  You miss out on exercising your brain (tracking skills) in addition to your muscles (walking to woods, climbing up ladder of  tree stand, dragging deer out of woods).  You miss out on knowing how your meat was 'raised" and how it was handled during processing.  And that $179. That's rather a whole lot of hours at a job, because we're talking post-tax take-home pay.

To be fair, I should include the cost of the hunting license ($15), and the cost of the sausage casings, cure and seasoning mixes we used in making the summer sausage and hunter sticks (about $21).  So, we did spend $36.  Still, $36 is a far cry from $179 to let somebody else do all the work.

So, that is why we willingly put in over eleven hours this week in order to have lean red meat in the freezer, and sausages on hand to snack on or serve at various functions through the coming year.

If we hadn't insisted on making all the sausages we did, we could have spent a little more time cutting the meat into steaks and stew, and wrapping them into one-pound packages for the freezer, then been done with it.  Normally, with two or three of us working on the deboning, cutting, and wrapping, we can take a deer from hanging with it's hide still on to packaged in the freezer in about three hours.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Picking Out My Dinner. . .

Think I found what I want for dinner, for about four or five months.  He's been strolling around the edge of my field and woods just about daily for the past week.  Pretty nice looking; if I see him on November 15th, he'll definitely do for dinner!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Playin' With Big Girl Toys

Today I spent about four hours "playing" with some big girl toys.  Not toys, really, I'm sure they are technically in the 'heavy equipment' classification, but it sure was a fun way to move about 40 yards of composted horse manure and bedding from the horse farm down the road to this little place here.  Moving 'nure from the horse farm to home has been an annual event, it is what I use for fertilizer in my garden, orchard, and flower beds.  Usually we load up our 16' trailer, which is not enclosed--and so only holds not even 3 yards, make about a dozen trips, and have to unload it by tractor and hand.  That's about a two day process.  Very hard work, very time consuming, very tiring.

This time, however, we sprang for the rental of a 7 yard dump trailer.  Woo boy!  I'm in love!  I told the kids I know what they can buy me for Christmas, LOL.  That trailer made short work of hauling manure (see mention of four hours, above).  And it was fun to use, too.

Using tractor to load composted manure into 7yd trailer.

Me dumping the trailer.
(holding down the 'up' button on the controller, 
such hard, hard work!)

Suburban and trailer in the driving-forward-to-unload-every-last-bit process.

Mmm hmm.  Seven yard dump trailer.  What every woman needs.  :-D  Gotta get me one of them.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Eggless Eating

Since we are well into the time of the year when the chickens go on strike--not really, they just take their annual molt and rest from laying--I thought I'd talk about making changes to the menu for when you can't eat eggs, whether for health reasons (like DD1's boyfriend, who is allergic to them) or because you just don't have any on hand.

Us hard-headed do-it-yourselfers with chickens often run into a lack of eggs in the dark, cold months of winter.  Then we have two choices:  find a way to substitute when a recipe calls for an egg or two, or *shudder* go to the store and buy eggs *shudder*.

If you all ready eat farm fresh eggs, you'll understand the *shudder* at the thought of eating an egg from the store.  If you don't know the difference, well, it's quite amazing that an egg can be so different in taste, texture, color and nutrients just depending on the lifestyle of the hen that laid it.  Once you've had a 'real' egg,   it's hard to settle for anything less.  And you'll be on your way to becoming one of those weird people (like me :-D ) who want to eat only pasture-raised meat.

It was during an egg barren time of the year once we'd started raising laying hens and decided we'd really rather not ever buy commercially raised eggs again, that I first went searching for alternatives to eggs in my recipes.  What I came up with, thanks to the internet (yay, internet!!), is a long list of things I can use in recipes in place of eggs.  Things that don't come from the store in a container marked "egg substitute", but rather come right from my own pantry staples.

Things like:

  • baking powder
  • vegetable oil
  • water
  • flaxseed 
  • flour
  • yogurt
  • applesauce

Here are the 'recipes' for an egg that I use most when I need to substitute:

2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp veg. oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp liquid


2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp veg oil
1/2 tsp baking powder


1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
3 Tbsp water (stir together and let sit 10 min before using)

Some work better than others, and some definitely only work for certain things.  For instance, we tried the baking powder, veggie oil and water substitution in a brownie recipe that called for 5 eggs.  Let me just say that was too many eggs to substitute with oil. The brownies got eaten, (we may have used spoons. . .) but they had rather a laxative effect--we were quite well-greased for a day or two.  I tried the flaxseed and water substitution in a coffee cake recipe and it came out rather dense and heavy.  Probably applesauce would have been a better call for that one.

It's really a matter of experimentation to find out which one works with which recipes.  As a rule of thumb, the fewer eggs being substituted, the better it works.  So now that 5-egg brownie recipe is not something we make in the winter time.

What started out as me being too stubborn to go to the store for eggs when my chickens weren't laying has come in really handy since DD1 has been involved with her egg-allergic boyfriend (16 months and counting; I think he's pretty much family now).  I can have him over for just about any meal, including breakfast, and not kill him, lol.  We even went with two cakes at DD1's graduation open house, one 'normal' and one eggless, so that he could be part of her celebration.

It also is a nice bit of knowledge to have in the winter time.  I can still serve fried eggs to DH (his breakfast of choice most days) all through the cold dark months by saving our farm fresh eggs for him, and using substitutions in my other dishes.

For more ideas, or specific recipes using egg substitutions, just do an internet search.  For an eggless chocolate cake recipe, look up my post from June on DIY Graduation Cake.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Teaching Kids to Eat Their Veggies

Honestly, I never really had a problem with my kids not wanting veggies.  So I can't say that I identify with those moms who wail to me "My kids don't like vegetables.  How do I get them to eat them?"

I think it begins very early in life.  So, for those reader with babies, or maybe those who don't even have children yet, take heed:  feed your babies veggies before fruit.

That was the advice I was given when my eldest son began to eat 'real' food.  After we'd done the infant cereal thing, and were ready to move on to things that didn't bear a resemblance to wallpaper paste, I was told to introduce all the veggies first, then let him taste fruits.  The basic idea being that fruits are sweet. Veggies, by and large, are not sweet.  Therefore, if you give a baby sweet stuff first, he will instinctively like it  better than the blander or not so sweet foods.  If you want a kid who eats anything, save the yummiest tastes for last, and make them 'dessert', so he gets a chance to like the not so lovable veggies.

Now, it's been probably at least twelve years since I've looked at the offerings in the baby food aisle of the grocery store.  Haven't known too many babies in that time frame, and haven't gone down the aisle just out of curiosity. But, from what I remember, the pureed veggies in tiny jars with labels bearing smiling baby faces on them go something like this:
green beans
sweet potatoes

Do they still make baby food spinach?  I always thought it looked like pond scum back in the days when I had toothless kids sucking liquefied veggies off the tiny rubber-coated spoon I was wielding.  But they all loved it, so who was I to tell them it looked disgusting?  And they all ate spinach in it's normal leafy form throughout their childhood without much complaint.

If you are willing to puree your own veggies, and cook them without salt or other seasonings, you can greatly expand your baby's repertoire.  I made baby food broccoli.  Baby food corn. Baby food rutabaga.  And mashed potatoes, well, they're pretty pureed all ready, so just don't add the butter, milk, or salt to Junior's portion.  The way I saw it, any veggie I ate, my baby could eat if I left it as natural as possible and made it smooth enough to be swallowed sans chewing and not choke.  (Not a vegetable, but I also fed my babies venison.  Cooked well and put through the blender, they absolutely loved venison at ages as young as 7 or 8 months!)

But what if it's too late for that?  What if your kid is no longer a baby?  If they are under about age ten or so, here's a tactic for you:  let them smother their veggies in ketchup or cheese sauce or even ranch dressing if they prefer.

Yep.  I don't know why, but it seems like all kids love ketchup and they love cheese sauce.  Quite a few are fond of ranch dressing.  So, I used those substances to my advantage.  Don't think you like broccoli or Brussels sprouts?  Douse them in cheese sauce.  Peas are good this way too.  Your kid loves ketchup but refuses green beans?  Let them make their beans red and taste like ketchup.  Won't eat carrots without ranch to dip them in?  Have at it.

The idea is that they will ingest the veggies because the veggies no longer taste like veggies, they taste like whatever it is they are drowning in: ketchup, dressing or melted cheese.  Gradually, you reduce the amount of the masking substance, and they learn that the offending vegetable doesn't taste so yucky after all.  And one day, you just happen to be out of ketchup, or cheese sauce, or ranch (oh no! out of ranch?  that's a staple at this little place here) and your kid takes a tiny bite of the naked veggie, and lives!!

At least, that is how it played out at my house.  That's not to say none of my kids ever met a vegetable they didn't like.  DD1 has an aversion to peas.  DD2 doesn't particularly care for green beans.  But they all eat a large enough variety of vegetables that skipping the peas or beans isn't a nutritional disaster.