The other night I was piecing supper together. I threw some potatoes in the oven, knowing that would get everyone filled up. Then I went to the garden to see if there was anything there that might fill that fresh and green void we all feel this time of year.

There are beds covered in hay and decaying manure. There is a bit of kale and turnip greens that somehow survived our colder nights. And much to my surprise, the Chinese cabbage, radishes, and even the lettuce were still standing. The mini cold frames Stewart put together gave us a bowl full of lettuce and dinner began taking shape.

But somehow even more vegetables seemed needed so I pulled the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts which are, most definitely, store bought from the fruit and vegetable basket. I could eat plates of these for a meal, and even little Joshie is eating them by the handful so with some scrambled eggs and Mabel cottage cheese, supper was settled.

By the time the potatoes were done, the salad washed and chopped, and the firewood beginning to come in the front door, the skillet was sizzling with simple, every day ingredients. I continue to make this dish, or some variation from it because it never ceases to surprise me what a sauteed onion and a bit of time in a cast-iron skillet can do for just about any vegetable.

Pan-Fried Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or lard
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3/4 lb Brussels Sprouts
  • 1/2 large head cauliflower
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the Brussels sprouts by cutting off the tips and quartering. Separate the cauliflower into small florets approximately the same size as the Brussels sprouts quarters.

Put a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until it begins to get just a bit of color and add the remaining vegetables.

Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are golden and have just a bit of bite left to them. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Deep in summer I find myself struggling to make it out of bed before the sun. The days are long and full and since, as they say, you must make hay while the sun shines, we cram those days desperately full.

Not so in these, the shortest days of the year. Coffee and wood stoves and milking before the sun. Everyone into bed before you might even put the chickens up in early July. And, of course, Mabel’s milk and the butter and cottage cheese we make from it.

This raw, cultured cottage cheese is pretty much a daily staple in our diet now because it is just so easy to make. I make it so often we put it in our forthcoming homesteading book.

We are, however, finding Mabel a bit sensitive. Never a full case of mastitis but many cases of a hardened quarter at milking time or milk that doesn’t strain quite right. It seems to coincide with the slightest change in her routine – a slight budge in her feed, a bout of cold weather, or the bull that has recently come to join her for freshening.

Any other milkers experience this?

And into the root cellar we go for pumpkins at least once a week. Pies are, of course, a regular but the children seem to really like a pumpkin stir-fry with a bit of canned longhorn. Pumpkin soup is, apparently, only delicious to Stewart and myself but I am hoping to wear them down yet.

Also down in the cellar are bags of sweet potatoes we found on sale at Aldi and packed away for weekly meals. Perhaps next year we will grow our own?

Speaking of Aldi, the garden is mostly done for this year save these lovely microgreens in mini greenhouses and the patch of Chinese cabbage I am hoping makes it through the upcoming freezes with a bit of covering. So cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are now on the grocery list and, roasted, pair nicely with the garden greens and orange vegetables from the cellar. (Can someone tell me how to grow Brussels sprouts in Central Texas? I might be able to live off of those little green delights and my other favorite, fresh from the garden beets. But truly I would like to grow our own.)

And of course I have several seed catalogs all marked up and am planning away for starting seeds in just a month or so now. You can leave any suggestions here for productive and tough vegetable varieties you recommend trying. Such inspiration I often glean from you all!

How is your kitchen (and homestead) in these darkest days of the year?