Friday, November 27, 2009

A Tale of Two Turkeys

We are a bit unusual in that we share Thanksgiving with friends that we only see once or twice a year on holidays. This tradition started many, many years ago when we moved to Massachusetts and knew few people well. One of my mother's career moves (she was a teacher), landed her an aid that quickly became a close friend, and we have been sharing this special holiday with them, the Black family, ever since.

Mr. Black has been doing his bird on the Weber for as long as I can remember. A couple of years ago he added a second bird to the mix, this one is smoked. I have always had a love for smoked foods. I remember smoked pheasant being a favorite of mine as a kid (I lived in Wisconsin, everything is shot, then smoked in those parts). Smoked cheese, ribs, and any other protein really. I love it all.

This long story is coming to an end, an end in which I get to declare that I am finally the proud owner of a smoker. I have had one of these bad boys 'on my list' for about 7 years now. I have done the cedar plank thing, and the smoker box insert thing. Neither of them impressed me. Now before you all get too impressed let me fess up and tell you I purchased the one that hooks up to my propane tank. This isn't true authentic Q, but it will do in a pinch, because after all, I am a modern woman and the gas grill is my version of microwave convenience.

This new contraption was filed under the "kitchen reno" project so at this point it's expense is a drop in the now overflowing bucket. I have two turkeys from a local farm waiting in my freezer, my husband already has the grill assembled. (He asked if I was going to do a bird tomorrow before we had even left Home Depot. I had to explain no, because they are still frozen. Besides, I need to hunt around for some fruit wood.) I hope you all had a wonderful meal with friends and family yesterday, we all have so many things to be thankful for- and this holiday of food celebration is always on the top of the list for us foodies. My favorite part of the meal was clearly the smoked turkey (which by the way is heaven on earth when pulled from the fridge for a snack the next day), what was yours?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making Some Progress....

Pictured above: Sink Mock-Up. The cuts are all finished, just 4 more coats of sealer and the counters can be dropped in. I LOVE my hammered copper sink. My son however, has informed me that he "doesn't really agree with it". My daughter has sanded some counter (against the grain), and attempted to cut the ends with kitchen shears. She also managed to sneak three jig saw blades up to her room and dance in the kitchen sink when no one was looking. Ha!

The Before:

The kitchen reno has officially begun! Luckily I remembered to capture a 'before' image since the vision of this kitchen will soon be banished from my temporal lobe. The two shades of green I am mulling over are to the left of the window. We have 95% of the cutting done on the new counters and they have their fist layer of sealant on, boy is my house toxic from all those nasty chemicals. We are holed up in the one room that doesn't require a mask to breathe. Oh, and those red beasts? GONE!!!!

My garden? What is that again?!? I still have not been out there to check on things and dig up the bulbs. Hopefully the garden is patient because it is going to be a while.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where's The Beef (Recipes)?

Alrighty. So I have 90-something pounds of beef in my freezer and very little beef braising experience aside from your standard Beef Stew. A pot of Boeuf Bourguignon is in the oven (using Face Rump Roast), hoping this will be as good as Julia Child claims it to be.

Does anyone have any favorite beef recipes they would like to share? Roasts, Stews, and hamburg dishes are welcome. I am way out of my league here....HELP!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Woolly's Portrait, Beef, and love of Julia

Here are the very delayed caterpiller pictures. The big fat one belly up has me a bit worried, but he is still alive (and belly up).

I think I may have mentioned my computer troubles...well after failed attempts at a fix by a fabulous gal at my husband's work we brought it to Best Buy. The money they wanted to ATTEMPT to fix it was ridiculous, half the cost of this here new MacBook Pro I am typing on. So bear with me as I learn the ropes of the Apple world, I love this machine- but there are some WiFi snags which I am not thrilled about. For instance, there is a constant loop of failed 'save' attempts going on right now. Hm.

In other news, the beef has arrived! Ninety-something pounds of butcher paper goodness. I am not familiar with so many of the cuts. Some web surfing led to more frustration over my lack of knowledge so off to the book store I went. After an hour of thumbing through rows of cookbooks I found Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child to be the only one mentioning all(most) of my cuts of beef. Thank goodness for Julia!! Does no one sell these cuts of meat anymore? I wouldn't know since I buy steaks and ground beef only, that is until this recent bulk purchase......I can't seem to kick the nasty cold/flu bugs and this viral pink-eye has been a real blast! Hope you all are faring better than myself!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pioneer Woman Saves Dinner

I had one pound of beef kickin' around in the freezer from my last meat order and not a whole lot else for accouterments. I thought this might be a good time to seek out Pioneer Woman's collection of country fare, and boy am I glad I did: BBQ Meatballs. Yum. Meat? Check. Onions? Check. Oatmeal? Check. Sauce is a basic ketchup and vinegar based concoction.

Check these saucy babies out:

OK, so not the roundest meatball, but luckily shape does effect it's taste. These are something you will either love or hate. Do you like those cocktail party meats that come in a crock-pot with some sort of jelly ridden sauce? If yes, then you must try these meatballs. Both my kids have declared them delicious, and that my friends is a VERY special thing. I am following Pioneer Woman's suggestion of pairing them with mashed potatoes. Dinner is going to be good tonight.....better call hubby to pick up some (more) beer. I am thinking it may be another half Woodchuck Hard Cider, half Sam Adams kind of night. Anyone else enjoy this cider/ale combination?

(For the BBQ Meatballs recipe visit site, head to cooking section and it will be found under "beef". This Mac is not allowing me to paste the link, seems as though Erin may need to give me some operational pointers.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wooly Bear Den

A week or so ago the kids and myself went out bear hunting, woolly bear caterpillars that is. Of coarse I had been removing them from paths of destruction for weeks not thinking to capture them for observation. And when looking for something it always becomes hard to find right? But lady luck was on our side and eventually we found two (one was in the asparagus). We put together a habitat and have named it the "Woolly Bear Den".

Currently there are two inhabitants. The den is out on my bedroom porch with the apples and squash, away from the reach of our naughty canines. Here the little fuzzies will hibernate through winter (they can survive -90 degree temperatures by making their own 'anti-freeze'), and awake in Spring to have a snack and spin a cacoon. One little fella seems to have forgotten to curl up in a ball before going to sleep, today I found him belly-up. Hmm...dead? Nope, still twitches when poked. Hoping he is not his 'way out'. (The other bear was eating and up and about.)

I took some pictures, but my lap-top is on the fritz and in for repair. They will have to wait...check out the information below for a little woolly bear fun!

From Ohio Sate University Extension: Cute, fuzzy and downright fun to watch it inch its way across a sidewalk, the harmless caterpillar has enjoyed being at the center of weather folklore. Like the groundhog's shadow, the woolly bear's 13 distinctive black and reddish-brown bands have become a rule of thumb in forecasting winter.

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the longer the middle brown band, the milder and shorter the coming winter; the shorter the brown band, the longer and more severe winter will be.

The truth behind the woolly bear's band length actually has more to do with age than with predicting the weather. As the caterpillar prepares to overwinter, the caterpillar molts, becoming less black and more reddish-brown as it ages. Woolly bears overwinter from September to May, and are commonly found along nature trails and wooded edges and crossing sidewalks and roadways seeking overwintering sites.

"The length of the bands have nothing to do with the severity of winter," said Bloestcher. "Woolly bears hole themselves up somewhere for winter. What do they care what color they are?"

The woolly bear, also known as the woolly worm and the black-ended bear, is the larva of the Isabella tiger moth. The caterpillar falls under "bristled" species, of which there are several different colors: all black, all brown, yellow and gray. But the black-and brown-banded species is considered the true banded woolly bear.

Woolly bears share winter predictions with some of nature's other critters, like honeybees and yellow jackets. Folklore tells that honeybees will store honey en masse in preparation for a severe winter and yellow jackets will build nests either high in the trees or in the ground depending on what the coming winter has in store.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My new lights are officially in 'Chelmsdale' Massachusetts (that's really Chelmsford, but I can't help myself). Somehow they are not due on my doorstep until tomorrow, but whatever. Here they are courtesy of PB:

I am sure you are wondering why I am going on about these lights, but the fact of the matter is these stinkin track lights were the first bit of change, which brought about the counter tops, which has now created a whole landslide and now I just want to go stick my head in a hole (or go rob a bank).

My counters are 1.5 inch thick Oak and from IKEA (not custom Mesquite as shown here), but all these custom wood people use the Waterlox which is shown here on these gorgeous counters. As I was making dinner last night (baked ziti) I remembered what a messy cook I am. There was sauce everywhere! I have 2 lbs of beeswax on it's way since I was originally set on a spoon oil finish, but I think that may not be the best choice. We may do a 2 or 3 foot section with just the oil and wax to use as a cutting/prep area. There will unfortunately be many seams since the sections are 8 ft each and I have a 10 foot run with two corners. Wood is just such a sanitary surface, I hate to ruin that everywhere by sealing it. Decisions, decisions- my head is spinning!
I am off to clean out the fridge and ponder this mess I have gotten myself into, what I really need to do is get out to the garden and dig up my dahlias and glads!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Totally Off Topic....

Does anyone have experience with wood finishes? We recently purchased butcher block countertops for the kitchen and I am all over the moment I am leaning towards mineral oil and beeswax, the next it's a Waterlox impermeable finish.

Each has pro's and con's, I guess I need to decide if I want an old European worn and stained look, or a more modern furniture type finish that can not be cut on, ever. Oil and wax is completely non-toxic. A poly marine type finish will keep the water out but I question it's ability to truly be food safe....then again I feed my kids right off the kitchen table all the time and that is not 'food safe'.

Really I have been waiting years for soapstone, but it just is not in the budget, nor will it be after going over budget on our recent addition. Keep in mind my house is post and beam, so the kitchen ceiling is pine, and the cabinets are maple. Now I am adding oak to the mix- thank goodness the floor in the kitchen is tiled!!

(oh, and what about copper sinks, anyone have experience with that? I love their natural anti-microbial properties and think the staining wouldn't bother me.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Here...

The first seed catalog for 2010 found it's way to my mailbox a couple of days ago. I have not cracked the sucker open...why you ask? Because I have plenty of seeds. Sure, there are a handful of things I need to pick up along the way, but for the most part I could grow two gardens with what I have stashed away.

But here is the problem folks, I feel as though I could use a seed intervention, a Seed Buyers Anonymous. Why are these darn catalogs so addicting? Is it the power we have over our own future, the possibility of a varied and beautiful harvest? Is it the crinkling paper and noise the seeds make in the packets when we sort through them, each their own little natural treasure?

I don't know what it is exactly, but I do know I love seeds and their catalogs, and now that the 2010's are arriving I should probably part with my very worn stash of 2009's. I suppose my next post should be a tally of what I currently hold in my little plastic box, my own catalog of sorts. Is anyone else out there feeling like a seed addict, always wanting more?

The house is quiet, the coffee has been poured, and I am going to dive into that High Mowing catalog...wish me luck!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Step Back to the Early 1800's

Yesterday we went to Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge Massachusetts. This museum re-creates life as it was in rural new England back in the years (1790-1840). I had a nice long talk with one of the farmers while he was showing me his root cellar. It was interesting to hear that there has been a large interest in the farming activities in the Village of late, where as 5 years ago no one cared how food was obtained or stored by our ancestors. The thing that stood out the most to me was the lack of chickens. Was chicken keeping not common or popular practice? There were sheep, pigs, and cows; the dishes being prepared contained ground beef or pork and lard or suet. No chickens or eggs in sight aside from the two I saw roaming with the sheep. One of the villagers did mention practically everyone had a cow, just an acre or two would do.

Now I am curious to know if chickens were out of fashion in New England at that time. Here are a couple of pictures I took along the way:

My son kept asking where all the cars were, he just couldn't conceptualize that weren't any. He is very happy to have modern day plumbing after seeing the chamber pots and out houses, and of course the Oxen were his favorite part. Once we were home he asked where the toilet paper was, that would have been a good question for the villagers as I have no knowledge of colonial hygiene aside from wash bins and rare use of soap. We left with some fun souvenirs- a gun, a broom, money from the first 13 States, a drop spindle and some wool, and The United States School Primer (New York, 1850's), a school book for a one room schoolhouse.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Here it is.....

For those of you that been asking, this this is the one.  :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Tucked In

Today was a good day to tackle our never-ending "to to list". We (and by we I mean my husband) tackled the dust and grime hiding in skylights, beams, and unreachable walls. My job was to foot the counts right?
Outside, the garden was tucked in for winter. The garlic bed, herbs, and carrots have thick blanket of straw to keep them warm. The youngest of the carrot seedlings are under plastic frame, and the greens are safely sheltered in the coldframe. Winter Rye was spread willy-nilly in any free areas and covered with a bit of straw for good measure. We came across a mouse nest and lots of red-back salamanders during our clean up.

The pumpkin seeds were finally roasted today, what a tasty treat! Ell and I are enjoying some right now. And finally, here are my little trick-or-treaters:

Halloween, a wonderful end to October.