Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekend Successful

Cats adorable. House clean. Cranberry salad made and eaten. Off to see one of my students perform in Swan Lake.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

I don't know if the never frozen, biodynamic, free-range turkey made a difference, if the stars aligned just right, or I'm just becoming a better cook but this year's meal was by far the best I've ever made. We just made the stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce today. Since it's just the two of us I'm luxuriating in making our Thanksgiving in parts. The cranberry salad is tomorrow. Haven't decided if pumpkin custard is being made tonight or tomorrow.

Q paid me one of the nicest compliments I've ever received as he ate tonight. He said that over the last couple of months my cooking has gotten to a whole other level. That it was always good but now it's really great. I guess I'll keep cooking for him. :)

Besides all the big things I have to be thankful for I was especially grateful for living in such a fertile state today. The Thanksgiving dinner ingredient roll call...

Turkey, potatoes, onions - Culp Creek, OR (40 miles) (biodynamic)
Cranberries - Bandon, OR (130 miles) (organic)
Celery - front yard (harvested just before cooking)
Sage, thyme, bread, salt, sugar - who knows
*** I know I could have made the bread from local ingredients and gotten the spices local but there's no need to be pedantic, is there? ***

I realized we're really getting a lot better on the local eating front. Tuesday's Beef Stew was made with local beef, beef stock (from scratch), turnips, rutabagas, carrots, rosemary, and red wine. Only the salt and thickening cornstarch were imports. Wednesday was chanterelle's in white wine sauce over egg noodles. Noodles were imported, everything else (except the salt) was local.

Tonight I made the marshmallows for tomorrow's salad. I ran out of corn syrup a while ago and didn't want to buy more so I used a substitute recipe. I think it worked although I don't think the sugar completely dissolved. This may be because I made a 1/3 recipe of the syrup and then directly added the marshmallow ingredients while it was still hot. Maybe make the syrup ahead of time, cool it and then make the marshmallows? Eh, the sample I took is good enough for me, only a tiny hint of crystals. Cranberry salad will be local cranberries, walnuts, and cream; homemade marshmallows from imported sugar; and pineapple from Hawaii. Some holiday traditions are just required though.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Binky Thinks She's a DVD Book

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pear Cider

Update, Thursday night: Okay, no pictures but we it ended up making 10 full bottles of cider plus a little bit. We'll see how it tastes in a couple of days.

The pear cider is almost bottled, pictures going up tomorrow but I wanted to get the nitty gritty details down tonight. It started at a 1.073 before fermentation. It was down to a 1.000 after. I added 2 c. of sugar to the must to bring it to 1.021 tonight, which suited our tastebuds. After crushing two campden tablets and dissolving them in a little juice we added them to the mixture and are letting it sit overnight before bottling. Better to have flat cider than the potentially explosive (even refrigerated) product from last time. The flavor seems good. Bottling will be a fun activity tomorrow morning while the turkey bakes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Turkeys and Soup - It Must Be November

We went to a farm about an hour away, Brice Creek Croft, on Saturday morning and helped with the preparation of our Thanksgiving turkey.I don't know which one ended up being ours but Q and I learned how to do everything from beginning to end to harvest a turkey. Valerie and Bruce (the farmers) had one other couple out helping and we did all twelve of their turkeys in the space of three hours. We didn't actually help with the killing but they didn't look distressed as they hung there bleeding out. When turkeys are hung upside down, the blood rushes to their head and they get really docile. She carefully cuts the major vein and artery in their necks without cutting the trachea so they just bleed to death without any suffocation.
I really liked dressing them. It's interesting to see all of the different organs and demystify where meat comes from. We now have an 18 pound turkey sitting in the fridge ready to be roasted for Thanksgiving. Hopefully, I'll get a good picture of the final product.

We also bought a box of vegetables from her and I decided to use the pumpkin for the pumpkin peanut butter soup recipe I've been wanting to try. I was going to try to cook it in its own shell but when I finally got the top off I realized that the pumpkin was almost all meat and there was no way to fill it with anything! I ended up baking the pumpkin and the sweet potatoes and then blending all the soup ingredients together before just simmering them on the stove top for a while. I made a half batch due to how much peanut butter we had and I'm grateful because it is really rich and a little goes a long way. We decided it would be the perfect appetizer for some autumn pork dish. I wasn't a huge fan of the sour cream and chives but Q thought they really made it work. That pumpkin was so meaty that we still have half of it in the fridge and the pumpkin pie filling I made out of the first half was enough for the soup and two pies. Mmmmm...Here's a picture of the Chicken Tortilla Soup we had a couple of days ago. It's been a very soupy week around here.

Digit's belly fur is starting to grow back in and you can't really even tell where his surgery scar is. He's not shy about showing it off.
Digit and Binky love it when I leave blankets out on the couch after we've used them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Hat Designs

I just finished my first hat using the owl pattern I created. I finished while I was in Grand Junction and Mama was kind enough to model. I also go an adorable picture of her smiling at me in it but I only got it by promising I wouldn't post it - so this is all the blog gets.
Q just did a modeling session for my new Space Invaders Bold. The one showing off the hat is posted on Etsy. The one showing off my dear husband gets posted here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

I finally made the Pumpkin Soup recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Even though she warned in the book about scraping too enthusiastically, I still poked a hole in the bottom of the shell. I wasn't being overly careful though, since it was just for us.
I had to put in a picture of the shell in its pool of soup though. It really would be a beautiful centerpiece for a dinner. Q didn't like the soup so I'm stuck eating all of it. It's good, but I'm not sure it's really "eat 2 quarts in a few days" good. It had roasted garlic and sage as the ingredients, which is why Q wasn't a big fan (not an over the top garlic fan like I am). I really like the idea of baking the milk/stock/seasonings base inside the pumpkin and then serving the finished soup in its own tureen though so I'll have to explore other options - Peanut Butter Pumpkin Soup has potential. Of course, with this recipe I'll have to completely change how it's created (bah to "pumpkin pie filling" as an ingredient) but I like the flavor choices. Perhaps sweet potato chunks cooking in the broth/peanut butter/spice mixture inside the pumpkin...Oh, my patient, patient husband.
I just got back from my annual visit to Grand Junction, CO to help with my mother's holiday fair - a trip I always look forward to. I think we figured out it's over 25 years old now, started ever so long ago by my dear grandma. We know that she continues to look down on us and "purr" in satisfaction when she sees us carrying on one of her favorite pet projects.
I was very lucky while I was there and got to see a beautiful light snow storm - big fluffy flakes that fell just long enough to leave everything covered in a sparkling white layer. What a treat.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pumpkins

Apples are amazing. Here are the 4 green pumpkins we sealed in a box full of apples for a couple of weeks (can't even tell which is the one that came off the vine orange can you?)...

Hmmm....maybe ordering that turkey wasn't such a good idea since Q and I should have an exclusively pumpkin based dinner apparently. After all, the pumpkins above are in addition to the 6 c. cooked I already have in the freezer.

After the new windows were installed we rearranged the living room. It is better in every way.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What's He Doing?

Digit got himself up on the tower of pillows behind Q. As soon as he was settled, Q said "What is he doing?" I took a picture since describing it would not really do it justice.

On a totally unrelated topic, I used the green pumpkin. I followed a deep dish apple pie filling recipe, substituting thinly sliced green pumpkin for the apples, and baked it, covered, in an 8"x8" pan for about an hour at 350F. It turned out very yummy, especially topped with whipped cream.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Driveway is Empty

Yes, it really took over 4 months to finally disperse the last of the soil pile. It's weird having a whole driveway again.

Where it went...
  • A large amount got moved in below the front window (visible below) for next year's asparagus bed, which requires deep soil. There's so much fill rock there that it was way way easier to just build up a bed.
  • To the left of the driveway, there has been a challenging weed patch on a thin layer of soil over rock, so hopefully the cardboard/dirt combo will take care of that.
  • The irises on the right of the driveway have been way overgrown for a very long time (since even before we moved here 5 years ago). I knew grass had invaded them, lurking there. The grass used this stronghold to mount an attack on the new corn/bean/squash bed this summer, which means it was time to fight back. All the dead iris got pulled but there was such a mass of root that I couldn't even begin to weed out the grass from it. Scorched earth became the new tactic. If the iris survives this harsh treatment, good for it. If not, too bad, new things will be planted there. That soil should get moved over in bits this spring to the other end of that bed, where we're putting in a potato box.

In a true me-like moment, the reason the dirt getting moved made top priority is because I'm hoping to get the City to deliver 7 cubic yards (the only size available) of dead leaves on our driveway. Grass and weeds are in several places where they have no business being and hopefully sitting under a foot and a half of leaves all winter will kill them dead dead dead. Anything that hasn't disintegrated into nothingness by the end of the winter gets thrown into the compost bin and it's a win from every angle.

Due to the time sensitive nature of this endeavor and the relative lightness of leaves, I'm anticipating that the leaf pile will get much more quickly dealt with. After that, I'm considering pressure-washing the driveway to discourage any more hare-brained schemes for a while.

Once the leaf mulch gets put down the garden will officially be put to bed for the season and I'll just keep occasionally checking my three winter beds, ready to throw protection over them if a serious frost is expected.
(Sidenote - don't the new windows look nice? I'm in love with them.)

Finally, the fate of the banana pink jumbo squash. I baked this half for about 25 minutes, cut side down, then turned it over, filled it with bread stuffing and baked it, covered with foil, for 35 minutes more. I should have used more butter in the stuffing and should have baked the whole thing probably about 15 minutes longer to get the squash really mushy. It was delicious anyway and served as our primary food source for most of the weekend. The other half got baked later (only one half fit in the oven at a time!), cubed, and frozen.

On Halloween Day, I pulled out the last of the vines and brought in my last 6 pumpkins. (I'd harvested 3 before.)
One was ripe - stuffed pumpkin or pumpkin soup in its own shell for dinner later this week? One was irrevocably green. I found recipes online that suggested paring it, slicing it thin and baking it like you would apple pie. I will report that experiment's results when it is completed.
Four were not quite ripe. The handy internet suggested placing them in a bag with apples. Apparently, the apples release ethylene gas, which will ripen the pumpkins to orange. It warns about less flavorful pumpkin but that's what nutmeg and ginger are for, right? Another experiment that I will report on when I learn the results. Pumpkins are currently locked in a box surrounded by Jonagold and Golden Delicious apples from Thistledown.

We siphoned the pear cider off into the other carboy on Saturday. It seems like it's going to end up tasty. A little weird right now but the apple was also not as fantastic when it was totally fresh. We're letting it sit a bit longer to clarify and then we'll probably add more sugar to get it nice and sweet like I like it, used Campden tablets to kill the yeast, then bottle it.
The last bottle of the apple cider was drunk on Halloween night. It was very bubbly and very alcoholic. Fermentation had continued quite nicely, even in the fridge. I know it's desirable to have it a bit bubbly but I'd like a product that can age for a few weeks at room temperature in its bottles this time, even if that sacrifices sparkle.