Home is where the hearth is during these colder months, and my family draws closer to the woodstove for activities like reading, games and knitting, as well as for togetherness and for comfort.
Our Heartland cookstove has been with us since the year after our marriage and we found it secondhand for a good deal. It is our only heat source, and this year, our only cooking source. While we do have a modern stove and oven as back-up, we were too cheap to refill our propane tank and so we've been cooking entirely on the cookstove since the fall.
My husband grew up with the same model so he knew a few tricks, but I must say it has a steep learning curve for proper use. The trick is to get it good and hot fast, then let it burn down to some red hot coals and feed it regularly with small logs for a consistent heat. For baking, this is essential, and if I remember to rotate the pies or cookies, they turn out wonderfully. There are a few bell valves to open and shut as well to maximize the air flow, and thus the heat of the stove.
While our cooktop is messy and stained, in the summer some stove blackening will pretty things up. I love using our collection of cast iron for our cookstove and I swear that pancakes are absolutely best hot off the griddle of a wood-fired cookstove!
During the summer months, we revert back to the gas stove simply because it gets too hot indoors...and the cookstove becomes a pretty place for fresh cut flowers ~ or an altar for my Blessingways...like this one in 2010 for Huckley.
But in the winter, the hearth is where we gather...and each of the children is learning the art of cooking on top of the Heartland. Like many of us, we tend to cook richer, warmer foods in the winter, often with lots of spices and flavours that warm us up from the inside out. Chilis, soups, stews are simple to put together and simmer all day over the fire, filling the house up with mouth-watering aromas. Often there are teas made by the kids in various pots place on top...I think we've had as many as eight pots going at once. And if we have an activity day away from home, I revert to a slow-cooker for a roast or stew as well.
One of the beauties of the cookstove is our warming oven.
I have become so reliant on this simple yet ingenious oven, that I don't know what I'd do without it. Not only is it great for keeping a meal warm for Papa when he is late from the mountains, but I use it for rising bread, culturing yogurt, soaking grains and nuts, drying out herbs and eggshells (for the garden starts), and helping art projects dry a little faster, too!
Lately we have talked about trading our Heartland in for a wood cookstove with a glass door...I surely miss seeing the flames inside the firebox...but for now, our Heartland is here to stay. Afterall, it is the Heartland of our home.
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I thought I'd share a winter warmth recipe for an Indian feast. We eat our legumes in the winter when Papa is away because he has an aversion to anything bean-like. So when he is off in the mountains, we fill up our bellies on meals like this one :
I make a basic dahl with pre-soaked green lentils, cumin, garlic and yams. A side of rice. A vegetable curry of your choice. And then I make these sprouted grain chapatis I once found on a blog (and I am so sorry but I cannot for the life of me remember whose blog it was!) that I've tweaked a bit...they are super delicious and a good way to get all those other flavours into your belly in one bite...we scoop up the dahl, curry, yogurt, and rice on top with a little homemade chutney ~ yum!
Sprouted Grain Chapatis
1 Cup of quinoa, soak for a few hours then drain, and let it sprout a few hours so the "tails" emerge
Grind 1/2 Cup almonds and 1/2 Cup Rice Puffs with sprouted quinoa
Add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon salt
Slowly add 1 1/2 Cups milk then let the whole mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes.
Butter a skillet and spread it all out thinly.
And an Indian meal isn't really a proper feast without some home-made chutney. Usually I can a few dozen jars of chutney every summer, but this past season, I didn't. However, with all our frozen fruit in the freezer, it only takes a little bit of time before you have a delicious chutney for dinner.
Wild Cherry Chutney
1 1/2 Cups frozen and pitted cherries, diced
1/4 Cup onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 Cup raisins
2 T almonds, slivered
1/2 t fresh ginger
1/2 t mustard powder
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1 T honey
1 T sugar
1/4 t xanathan powder
Add all these ingredients together and simmer gently. Let it thicken up before taking it off the heat. It is tart and tangy with a little sweetness.
What kind of winter foods keep your family warm from the inside out?
Joining in a monthly series...Please have a visit to the kitchens of these other mamas :
Renee from Heirloom Seasons, Melanie from Our Ash Grove, Melody from Bespoke, Sarah from Our Island Home, Tonya from Joyful Living, Lisa from Hullabaloo Homestead, Taisa from Small Wonders, and Nicole from Redbeet Mama.
January ~ getting started