Is it totally lame that I read my second-grader's library book this weekend? I am a sucker for the "Little House on the Prarie" series. I just find something so romantic about this period in our nation's history. The courage of pioneers to travel westward and simply set down roots is so awe-inspiring to me. I have made very plain my eventual goal to move to rural Iowa on a fully sustainable farm. With every visit to this beautiful part of our country I cannot help but miss the roadside produce stands that crowd York county. The gorgeous fields of Iowa seems to, instead, be filled with subsidized acres of genetically engineered corn and soybeans. My dream is to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to the rural areas of whatever little town we decide to settle in. I dream of growing produce, raising several animals (for eventual butchering, milking, egg harvest, etc.)
So, anyway, as I was reading "On the Banks of Plum Creek" I was, frankly, a little jealous of the Ingalls family. I mean, they were surrounded by plum trees of every variety (naturally occurring, apparently) and they were able to catch their dinner in Plum Creek. The pioneer life appears so idyllic until you factor in: grasshopper plagues, an 8 and 9 year old walking three miles to school each way, deadly blizzards, relying on crops for income, and the lack of modern conveniences.
Now, I consider myself a pretty low-maintenance girl. My one qualification, however, is cleanliness. To think of bathing once a week would be unfathomable. At the risk of sounding indelicate, I need a shower. Every. Day.
We traveled to our cabin this weekend, leaving on Saturday night. I arrived dead-tired after a long day of cooking (120 crabcakes, two cheese platters, fruit tray, veggie tray, 100 sandwiches, and spinach-artichoke dip). After I delivered my food I came home to pack and after 30 minutes of literally throwing things into suitcases and boxes, we were ready to leave. We stopped at Wendy's for a completely disappointing meal (a little tangent: this is why I can't work full-time...I fed my family Wendy's) and finally arrived to our cabin around 9:00pm. As we were getting ready for bed I realized that I had completely forgotten mine and Rob's suitcase. No clothing. No toiletries (including contact case/solution/glasses for Rob). I don't even want to tell you what I'd thrown on to wear on our trip. It was so bad I made Rob go through the drive-thru because I was embarrassed to be seen in public. At Wendy's.
Thankfully, I have a wonderfully generous husband. He drove me (actually I drove, long story - we got contact solution at the closest grocery store) to the nearest "big town" 40 minutes away and bought me a new pair of jeans at Tractor Supply! (it was the only retailer we could find with clothing). I continued to wash out my undergarments and t-shirt every day just to feel a little cleaner, but still, I felt so dirty wearing the same clothes for two days. I would not make a great pioneer.
Because this is a cooking blog, here is a dinner I made a few weeks ago that seems a little rustic. We'll call it "Pioneer Chicken Pie". Not really. It's a simple recipe that pleases each member of our family. It's hearty and filling. A perfect choice for a cold winter night.
1 small whole chicken, cut up (less than 4lbs)
4 large potatoes, peeled
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 bag frozen peas (I forgot to add them in this batch)
1 pie crust (I have recently started using lard in place of shortening...I'll fill you in at a later time)
1. In a large stockpot, place chicken, celery tops, carrot tops, onion peel and plenty of water. Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hrs or until chicken is fully cooked. Reserve 2-3 cups liquid for recipe. Keep the remaining in freezer for additional uses.
2. Shred chicken from bone.
3. Place potatoes, onion, celery, and carrots in large pot and boil until tender. Drain, add peas, and pour into 9x13 baking dish.
4. Pour 2-3 cups chicken broth over vegetables. Add shredded chicken.
5. Cover mixture with prepared pie crust. Cut slits into the crust and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until crust is fully baked and golden brown.