Humble Oatmeal

Did you know that more oatmeal is consumed in January than in any other month of the year?  It surprised me too but I guess that is why January is National Oatmeal Month.  So let us explore this humble but wide and fascinating world of oatmeal.

Oatmeal has been around for centuries. Oats were one of the first cereals cultivated by man. The ancient Chinese knew of the oat as long ago as 7,000 B.C. but the ancient Greeks were the first to make a recognizable porridge or cereal from them.

Oatmeal is healthy for the inside of your body in so many ways. It has cancer fighting properties and it can ease digestion by slowing down the digestion process of starches in the body.  It also helps reduce your bad cholesterol without lowering your good cholesterol. Continue reading

Managing My Seed Addiction

I admit, I have an addiction. Oh, it’s not the usual female vice of a purse collection or a closet lined with shoes.

Shop heirloom seeds at Lehman’!

For me, it’s seeds. Over fifteen colorful varieties of lettuce, beets in many hues, a dozen different beans and more weird greens than my mother can pronounce (think arugula, mizuna and komatsuna) are lurking in my seed tubs. I am getting itchy to plant that rainbow of radishes, a kaleidoscope of heirloom tomatoes and multiple shades of potatoes to accompany the seventeen varieties of garlic that were tucked in the ground last fall. My love of alliums extends to marvelous onions, leeks and shallot varieties not available on your grocery shelf and I haven’t even started listing the herbs.

It all began years ago when I was newly married and allowed myself the luxury of adding one new variety of seeds to my very practical (and boring) garden assortment. One year I hit upon a packet of mesclun (a mix of lettuce and greens for “gourmet” salad) and my life has never been the same. It piqued my curiosity to wonder what the Garden of Eden really was like and to explore the amazing things lurking in my seed catalogues. Many colors of peppers later I needed to support my seed buying addiction by going into business and I am now entering my ninth year as a market gardener. Continue reading

Chocolate Popcorn

Some readers have asked for this recipe since I “teased” about it in a recent e-mail, so here it is. My great-grandmother clipped it out of a newspaper many decades ago. No one is sure when, but it’s now in its 4th generation in our family. Growing up, it was our absolute favorite snack for family movie night (which was a treat in itself, since we didn’t watch much TV). It is not crunchy like caramel popcorn, but you eat it warm, sticky and gooey. My dad used to make a big bowl of it, then dole it out into smaller bowls for each person. Enjoy!

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
pinch of salt
butter “the size of an egg” (about 3 T.)
1 T. cocoa
1-2 tsp. vanilla
6-8 c. plain popped popcorn

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except popcorn and vanilla. Cook over medium heat about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a drop of syrup placed in cold water forms a ball (“soft ball stage”). Add vanilla. Stir well and pour hot syrup over popped corn, stirring to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Waffling About Waffle Irons

Let’s get this straight right from the start: I don’t care for waffles. I don’t not like them; I can eat them and not complain, but if I never met a waffle the rest of my life I’d never miss it.

So I got a waffle iron one Christmas – the kind you plug into the wall but can’t put in the dish water. Well, I never thought I was that dense, but will somebody please tell me how in the world you can keep an appliance like that clean?

The instruction manual said to use oil, even though the box said “nonstick,” and by the time the iron got hot enough to use it was already a gunky mess… anyway, then you pour in the batter and excess oil spills out (no matter how careful you are, there’s an excess somewhere) and by the time it’s over, brown, sticky, gunky stuff is all over the pretty shiny outside of it. Continue reading

Seeds and the Rite of Spring

Heirloom Bushy Cucumber Seeds from Lehman's

Heirloom Bushy Cucumber Seeds

Question:  What do saved yogurt cups, a kitty litter pan and plastic kitchen trash can liner bags have in common?

Answer:  They’re a frugal gardener’s way to get seeds started in any sunny window!

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, the seed catalogs, nursery stock lists and orchard supply magazines have started filling your mailbox.  Everything from heirloom seeds to herb specialties to antique rose offerings have been piling up on a table next to my wing-back chair near the fireplace; and hardly an evening goes by, when I don’t get out a pad of graph paper, and find myself imagining walking between row after row of healthy veggies, flowers and herbs waiting to be brought inside or just enjoyed in place for their fabulous color and fragrance…. Continue reading

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Lehman’s Racer – Fastest Sled in Jericho!

Lehman's® Racer SledsWhen our son Matthew was six, we bought our first Lehman’s Racer. (Yes, even Lehman’s owner has to pay for the merchandise he takes home!)

Owning a sled called the “Racer” was a source of pride, but I planned to double that racer pedigree with some secret ways to make it go faster. After we gave him the sled at Christmas, we went out in the farm shop beside our garage. First, we took sandpaper, and ground off all the paint on the bottom of the runners. Next we took canning wax and gave the runner surface a thorough rub down. After that, there was nothing to do but wait on the first snow.

Running through the middle of Kidron is a winding creek called the North Fork. In fact, part of our store is built right over that creek.

South of town, that creek cuts a deep valley through the low hills around our little town. One side of that valley forms a popular sledding hill near the site of a nearby metropolis known as Jericho.

OK, I guess I have to honest. The “metropolis” of Jericho exists only on old plat maps from the 1800’s. Today, it’s little more than two or three farm houses gathered around a crossroad along the North Fork.

Old timers can tell you where the Jericho flour mill used to stand. For the rest of us, Jericho is just the home of the best sledding hill around. It’s short enough that you can drag your sled up in less than five minutes. It’s long enough to give a thrilling ride.

The shape of the hill adds to the fun. A gentle decline for the first 30 feet or so, it suddenly drops off fast enough to make you feel like you’re going straight off a cliff. With a running start, plunging over the crown at the edge of that sudden drop consistently produces a moment of pure terror that only the best roller coasters can duplicate.

That fast part of the hill lasts at least another 50 feet before it tails off to a shallow meadow that forms the floodplain of the North Fork. At the edge of creek on the far edge of the level flood plain is a barb wire fence. Of course, our sleds always stopped long before they reached the fence.

It seemed like our chance to get that first sled ride would never come, but Continue reading

Growing Food Indoors: One Gardener’s Journey

I’ve always loved the idea of gardening indoors, so when we lived in our townhouse in northern Virginia, I tried to grow food plants outdoors first and then indoors.

My first try was moving a pepper plant indoors. Yes, I got a bell pepper. But, I also got gnats that infested all of my houseplants. It took me months and gallons of neem oil before my coffee cup was safe from these little intruders. But I still liked the idea. And held onto my dream of having a garden.

In July 2010, we moved from our townhouse to a completely off-the-grid earthship* in northern Arizona. It was an older style, designed for sustainability, complete with giant planters in both living room and bedroom! These planters had huge rubber trees and Norfolk pines growing in them. They were pushing on the ceiling! Wow! I could dig them out and plant a real garden indoors! A dream come true!

Then it hit me. The awful smell and the bugs coming from the planters. The water supply was coming from the drains in the kitchen sink, washer, and shower. Obviously neglected, this indoor greywater system was beyond repair. But what about my garden? Surely if I cleaned out the planters, it would be ok. Continue reading

Three more slurps: Last recipes for Homemade Soup Week!

What’s that? You need MORE great soup recipes? Well, we aim to please. So here you go!

Here are two classic Midwestern favorites to try, courtesy of one of Lehman’s long-time employees. Pearl Taylor is the sister of founder Jay Lehman, and she was also one of the company’s first workers. It’s also no secret around our store and office that Pearl is also an excellent cook. She graciously shared two of her favorite soup recipes with us this week. They’re both guaranteed to be hearty belly-warmers! Enjoy, and we hope everyone enjoyed our Homemade Soup Week.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

2 T. butter
3/4 c. onion, chopped
6 c. chicken broth
8 oz. fine noodles
1 tsp. salt
2 pkg. frozen chopped broccoli
6 c. milk
pepper to taste
1 lb. Velveeta cheese Continue reading

Celebrate the Goodness of Soup

To me, nothing is better on a cold winter day than a bowl of  hot soup.  Well, maybe hot chocolate… but January isn’t National Hot Chocolate Month.  No, January is National Soup Month in the United States.  Did you know that approximately ten billion bowls of soup are consumed every year by Americans?

The first soups were a far cry from what we have today.  We don’t think fast food when we hear about soup but when it first started showing up on street carts in 600 B.C. it was.  Watery broth, lentils, beans, and peas were the main ingredients for Greek street vendors.  Soup was sold to help keep people warm and to ward off exhaustion.  Many cities that have large fisherman’s wharves — like San Francisco — still have soup vendors today.  The origin of the word ‘soup’ is in constant disagreement, but it can’t be ignored that soups are popular in most of the world.  Almost every country or culture has its own signature dish because soup is extremely versatile and customizable. Continue reading

Wintertime = Soup and Dumpling Time

What person doesn’t love to have some nice hot soup on a nice cold day?  Soup is one of man’s (and woman’s) best fighters against cold weather and cold weather illnesses such as colds and the flu.

In the “old” days, soup was an all day affair for the cook, and it can still be.  Starting with soup bones, a turkey carcass or a stewing hen, you put the meat in water and cook with spices and vegetables until the meat falls off the bone.  De-boning the meat, you use the liquid – taking out any large pieces of cooked vegetables, you replace the meat in the liquid and add fresh vegetables and spices and cook until done.  Soup can be put on the back of the stove and be ready for meals at any time.  This soup can be thickened with flour for a stew or have rice, barley, noodles or dumplings added. Continue reading