Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beef and a Beef

Last weekend, the result of many weeks of negotiating, hard work (none of it mine...) and coordination of various trailers, farm hands and meshing of schedules, came to fruition.

A portion of my friend, Cynthia's, Randall cattle have moved onto my other friend's beautiful farm.  Everyone is thrilled - especially the cows!  To learn more about this lovely, endangered breed and Cynthia's 20+ year journey to bring them back from the edge of extinction, go here

Now, onto a beef(s) of another stripe.  As background - almost totally unrelated because, well, I tend to ramble on - I do not watch television (my small screen is used only for DVD viewing - I have no dish, satellite or other connection), have refused to listen to the radio since last November and do not get a daily paper.  A few weeks ago, while out with my sister, I managed to get myself strong-armed into signing up for four-day delivery of our largest local newspaper.  They hit me at a weak point - in JoAnn Fabrics, of all places - with the offer of a $20 gift card and a limited subscription.  Since we live in the sticks, they have to hire someone to deliver the newspapers in the wee, early hours of the morning.  This is how my very limited subscription rolled out - Thursday: a paper delivered.  Friday:  no paper delivered.  Saturday:  see Friday.  Sunday:  paper delivered.  I called customer service and advised them of the missing papers.  I was credited.  Next week - wash, rinse, repeat.  Third week - I made it to Friday morning and then called customer service and cancelled.  It was then I was informed that my 'credits' meant that they extended my subscription by the number of papers not delivered.  Wonderful.  Not only would the Thursday and Sunday - apparently, the only two days where a live brain cell connected with conscious thought - be stretched out forever, there was so little of the newspaper to read that it was not worth the effort.  I kid you not when I say that a good 65% of the paper was advertisements.

Another beef - actually the original beef that got lost in the random beefs above - is the food editor of this paper and her latest local 'star' chef.  We may live in the capitol of the state, but there is very little of the sophistication (and money) of the unofficial capitol downstate, no matter how hard they try.  I am assuming that the food editor - her little blurb contains many references to her British-ness - was looking for something to do to fill her days, or else a good way to get tax-deductible meals.  She is so verbose and tiresome, that you long for a pair of scissors about two-paragraphs in (and she takes up most of the front section page and part of an inside page!)  I digress - again.  It may just be me, but this description of a four-star dish, really rankled me:  Veal cutlet, Marsala mushrooms, soft polenta, a sunnyside egg, and arugula.  In a heap.  I may not be a gourmand, but veal is pretty mild in the first place, let alone buried under wined mushrooms, a bland glob of mush and a runny egg.  I suppose the arugula is so that it has some color, other than tan, yellow and white, and a bit of flavor.

It seems apparent, even to me, that I need another latte to offset the onset of crankypants.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Food, Fun, Fotos and Bon Voyage, Lacy.

 The weekend started off with a gathering (all too rare now) of the Girlz Night girlz.  There are three of us and we used to get together once a month, rotating between houses.  It was fun and the only time I partake in a martini (I'm a light-weight).  Then lives got busy and complicated and one of the three bought a second house on Cape Cod.  That was not, obviously, me.  It has fizzled down to maybe once a season, so this was a nice surprise.  The other thing that has changed quite a bit is the length of the gathering.  We start at 6 and we used to carry-on until almost 10.  Now, we were out the door and in our cars at 8.  N's local house is on the market and soon it will be two.  Sigh.

Saturday was an interesting day, as I am now making myself open to whatever happens and not beating myself about the head and shoulders over not focusing on my list(s).  I had a good start - four loads of laundry done, sea salt & dark chocolate granola made, refrigerator pickles tucked in the new fridge, water buckets cleaned and refilled, weeds wacked, when I chanced on a Freecycle listing for kombucha scobys.  Woot!  My poor scoby, which I had so carefully dried to keep it on hand, did not rehydrate well.  The offer was limited to that day, so I bundled the dogs into the car and off we went.  I am so glad we did!  The woman's house was in Vermont, down a gravel road to a dirt road to the dead end.  The only house on the road, up in the mountains.  It was like driving into Eden.  She gave me the largest, most healthy-looking scoby I have every seen.  She was in the middle of canning, but took the time to share her vast kombucha knowledge.  She was great!  It was also great that she didn't have chickens, as I took along a dozen fresh eggs as a thank you gift.

Everything was put aside as I rushed home to brew up some sweet tea.  I now have a half-gallon burbling on the counter, with the other half of the scoby in a scoby 'hotel'.  That took a large chunk out of the middle of my day, so I settled for steam cleaning the living room rug (Sylvie's coming!) and cleaned bathrooms, counters and swept mounds of orange fuzz.  Speaking of orange fuzz, Bertie, aka The Yam, will most likely be going to his new mom this coming weekend.  I have, not surprisingly, conflicting emotions about it.  But it is definitely for the best, as he deserves a good home with someone who will love him without reserve.

For Mama Pea - my new
fridge in all it's packed-solid glory.
Saturday night, I tried a new recipe that is definitely a keeper!  I love all things zucchini, so when I saw the recipe for zucchini ravioli, it went to the top of the heap.  I managed to get it in the oven before the fireworks started (severe storm warnings were beeping on my phone from 6P on) and I ended up eating dinner with Slimby curled in a quivering ball on my lap.  Not an easy maneuver.

The recipe is from Half-Baked Harvest and turned out wonderfully, even with my ever-present alterations.  I did not have feta so used ricotta and shredded Pepper Jack, and I added some cooked corn to the filling.  I also got to use my new favorite baking dish, purchased for an amazingly low price while shopping with my sister in NH.  And it is NOT made in China!

My grape tomatoes and basil, Marianne's heirloom
tomatoes.  In my beautiful dish.

Zucchini ravioli on their way into the

Zucchini ravioli on their way into me!

I also found a recipe for zucchini pizza crust, which is next on my list.  Right after the zucchini fritters.  And zucchini bread.

Sunday I made scones for National Scone Week and took them to the barn crew with my homemade blueberry jam.  They are now scone converts, having never had a scone before.  Speaking of my homemade jam, I have now begun the Great Purge.

Part two (of many) of the Great Purge
So far, I have jettisoned sixteen pints of assorted unidentified jamish type of things, two years' worth of non-jellied currant jelly - you get the picture.  Above, there are pickled blueberries (why? why?) and more currant jelly-that-isn't.  And rhubarb chutney from 2009.  Obviously, I do not eat chutney, nor does anyone else in my circle of family and friends.  Hopefully, the chickens will enjoy it.  If not - compost!  I tremble at the thought of what else is lurking in the dark shelves of my canning cabinet...

Sunday was also the day we celebrated my dad's and my second dad's (my neighbors) birthday.  Dad will officially be 95 on Wednesday, while Ray was 93 the previous Wednesday.  My sister's house was the perfect venue (I love her house) and most of our family gathered - we were only missing my nephew from NH and his family, but they were there in our hearts.  A local woman and friend provided live music and it was a very nice get-together.  Martha is a very accomplished violin and fiddle player and has a wide circle of musician friends that she can call on for small gatherings.  This time she was joined by a delightful and talented young man who played the flute.  At my sister's birthday, three years ago (!!) she was accompanied by a keyboard.  It was wonderful!
Tuning up on the beautiful
L-R My Aunt Josie (Mom's sister), Bea (Mom#2,
Mom, Dad, my youngest sister.  Foreground:
our fourth sister, Barb, my nephew, Austin and his
lovely new bride, Rachel.

On the right:  my dog-nephew, Jasper, with my BIL,
and Dad2 in the hat.

BFFs, Bea and my mom

The old cutie, Dad, with his loot.
I made a few stops on my way home, and then let the dogs out and made a quick pass through my garden.  OMG.  I have an actual tomato harvest:

I had to laugh - I have been stalking that tomato for days, waiting for it to turn red.  It is an orange tomato.  LOL!

It's going to be another wild week of unproductive (in list-shrinking terms) days, but I have two friends scheduled to drop by tonight - hopefully during chore time.... then my BFF is coming into town from Maine and I have taken Friday off.  Then Bertie goes home with Cynthia Saturday... then, POOF, the weekend is gone!  I do still have Sunday, but there is a big festival all weekend at the town just south of me and some of the activities are just too alluring...

Before I sign off, I would like to say a little about a wonderful chicken.  Lacy passed away yesterday at the ripe old age of 10.  She was an all-around excellent hen.  Lacy was a silver-laced Wyandotte that I adopted when my dear, sweet, Rosie had to disburse her flock.  Lacy was the matriarch of the henhouse for years, until this one.  She had been demoted to the bottom, but the other hens were never hard on her.  I will miss seeing her rocket out of the coop in the morning.  I will miss her gentle burbles and clucks as she followed me around.  Bon voyage, sweet girl.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I suppose I should cross "Photographer" off my resume.

Wouldn't you think that attendance at a craftsmen's fair would warrant a slew of photographs?  Well, yes, it would, had the attendee been anyone but yours truly.  I was too busy gawking at all the neato stuff to remember to photograph it.  There were a few times the penny did drop into the slot, so to speak, and those will follow.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable time - both because of the quality of the workmanship on display, the site of the fair and the quality of the company.

I had a strict budget and it was tough, I tell you, TOUGH!  It finally came down to a delightful repurposed sweater cat and an amazing print of a porcupine.  I decided on the former - way cheaper - but am still thinking about the latter.  I did pick up the printmaker's card and may revisit her website and order it.  Such talent.

Here's some (very few) shots of our trip:

After the forecast of rain all day, it turned
out to be lovely.

Wonderful weather vanes

If I had the money, I would have spent a bundle
on this guy's beautiful clay stools.

OMG, I wanted one of these SO badly!
It's been added to my bucket list.

There were so many extraordinary artists!  Everything from leather, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, paintings, lithographs, photography, crafts of all shapes and sizes - there were some giant chickens made from fun fur turned into feathery spikes that were so adorable... - it was just overwhelming.  My sister got a beautiful stained glass hanging that she wants to suspend in front of her French doors in her dining room.  And the music!  There was a bluegrass band that was wonderful - it was difficult to leave our seats, but time was limited and there was so much ground to cover.  The event is held at the Sunapee Resort in Sunapee, NH.  A beautiful spot, even without all the art.  We have made a date to add this to our annual trips. 

We had left extra time for our return trip, having spotted a couple of interesting spots on the way there.  However, we were yakking away and missed a turn and ended up having to go a different route home.  I think that calls for a return trip...


Getting home earlier than usual allowed me to tackle some of the mounting pile of produce in the fridge.  I put together a sort of ratatouille that strained the borders of my largest cutting board.

This needed the BIG pan!
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to get a pile of wonderful RIPE tomatoes, a gallon bag of green beans and some interesting peppers from my friend, Marianne.  I have tons of tomatoes on the vine.  All green.  I may have ripe tomatoes by September if we ever get warm enough weather.   I did some canning - it's all that I can do to hold myself back - and finally got red currant jelly that jelled.  I also made Cherry Salsa and the jury is still out on that.  It had better be darn good, as it involved four pounds of cherries that had to be stemmed, pitted and chopped.  OMG.

Saturday night was spent with my two favorite guys - the Lithuanian Lawn Guy (aka The Neighbor) and my friend, Denis.  The menu was veal osso bucco, rosemary roasted potatoes and carrots and a French cheese, the name of which escapes me.  Which is a very good thing, as I was tempted to just eat it with a spoon until I keeled over and I daren't keep it in the house.  D's house is up at the end of a hollow, surrounded by mountains and forests and was built in the 1700's.  It's so beautiful up there!

The LLG and Denis
And, introducing "Claude"

Aiiiii.  The squeezability factor is high.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Behold the Knitting! (In all its lumpy imperfection.)

I finally struggled through my first two-color project.  It's finally over.  This is the pot holder in all its imperfect glory - I don't believe more than four of the cross patterns are the same in a row.  And it's rather - let's say 'tense'.  I'm sure I transmitted my angst to the stitches because, either it's a very small version of the original pattern or the model in the photo was a four-year-old with tiny hands.  Anyhoo, it's over and I'm not totally hating it.  I will love it more after a bath and a stretch.  Let's hope I get better at this, as I have three more to go.  I did realize that I read knitting patterns a lot like cooking recipes - I am smitten by the title and the pretty pictures, then sort of skim through the rest.  The pattern repeat was a bit - cockeyed - and I didn't pick that up until I had soldiered on for eight rows.  Frogging out a project in two colors is a whole other thing than one.

I hope to get some things crossed off The List this weekend - currant jelly and cherry salsa are at the top, followed closely by clean out run-in shed and shovel llama beans.  At least it won't be boring.  On Monday, my sister and I are taking a day trip to the League of NH Craftmen's Fair in Lake Sunapee.  With any luck, I will have remembered to charge my phone and will have pictorial evidence of our good time!

Monday, July 31, 2017

More fruit. More labor.

Black currants on their way to a vodka
bath.  Almost looks like caviar, doesn't it?
I spent a vacation day on Friday, diddling around, waiting for the delivery of my new fridge.  I did get some items checked off The List and The Un-List.  I was so successful at diddling, that I forgot why I was home on a Friday (could it have been the thought of homemade Cassis in December...?) and was taken off-guard when the delivery guys called me, warning of imminent arrival.  Of course, in delivery terms, "imminent" is very elastic.  I hauled out any number of packages (identifiable and ... not) from the freezer, forming two piles - "Chickens" and "Cooler".  Then there were the unending jars of condiments that have languished in the fridge for years.  How is it I need two jars of fish sauce?  I can't bring myself to throw out food that is still useable, so I will have to work on using some of these rather exotic (to me) additives.

I watched as the panel van whizzed by my house - a common occurrence, as GPS always overshoots my house.  I counted three minutes and there they were again.  They were very efficient and polite, even when they entered the house and encountered Godzilla, the old fridge.  I was standing by with the shop vac because I had never, ever vacuumed around, under or behind it in the 11 years I lived there.  I couldn't get it to budge.  With a lot of careful maneuvering, they got it out and hustled it out the door and down the driveway.  I wonder what the conversation was like, as moving the fridge uncovered three hypodermics - needleless (veterinary use) as well as a large volume of assorted fur and a pile of peanuts.  I vacuumed my little heart out and looked at the filthy floor.  I did the best I could under the time constraints and they moved the new fridge into the slot, all shiny and white.  I love it.

Later, when I was going down the front path to my driveway, I encountered three hair balls the size of small rabbits, spaced about four feet apart, a decorative ribbon on a florists stick and my toast tongs.  I have no idea....


Saturday was a mixed bag - chores, cooking, cleaning, gardening.  I got my garlic pulled and put in the barn to dry before getting hung up to cure.  I horked out my giant kohlrabis.  I made Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate Granola for my aunt and sister.  I mashed and hung the red currants in my jelly bag.  I rearranged my new fridge interior for the umpteenth time.  I picked a few green beans.  I dosey-doed around making my pie crust until I couldn't stand it and threw it together in the food processor.  I used to love making pie crust and, if I say so myself, I made a good one.  There is no good GF pie crust recipe.  It is a frustrating process of whizzing dry crumbs around until you can squeeze it together in a shaggy lump.  (Appetizing, ain't it?)  Then you wrap it in plastic and let it 'mellow' in the fridge for an hour or more.  Rolling it out is a whole nuther trip to hell that I won't even describe, but it always involves bad language.

I was making said pie crust for a Smoked Salmon Quiche.  Which I didn't pull out of the oven until 9PM Sunday, way too late to have for dinner.  Why so late?  Because I had a very full Sunday and I am not as young as I used to be.  I was out the door at 8:00A to feed the barn cats and head to VT to pick up my sister for our annual blueberry pilgrimage.  The blueberry farm is almost two hours north of me, but it is our tradition, the blueberries are divine and the prices are fair.  After being confronted with a gallon and a half of frozen blueberries from last year during my recent freezer purge, I reined in my usual over-the-top picking to about 8 lbs.  From there we took a leisurely drive to a great little tavern for lunch, then some errands and then I toted her home.  I still had two more stops to make and pulled my droopy self into the house at 4:30P.  It's hard to stay droopy when confronted with a total of 100# of yipping, celebratory pups with full bladders.  We goose-stepped out the back door and back inside.  Where I collapsed into full droop mode. 

The sheep have forgiven me for running out of fresh grassy patches because some good soul (my dairy farmer) dropped six fresh bales of hay at the barn door.  It is very popular in the run-in shed.  With everyone well-fed, I dropped into my favorite chair (complete with cat) and watched a documentary about Peggy Guggenheim while my quiche baked.  I then took it out, slapped a piece of foil loosely on the top and went to bed.

Then it was Monday.

Luscious lunch!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reaping the fruits of my labor.

I think that there should be a category added to the description of any fruit tree, bush, shrub, or combination of same.   Pick-ability.  One star means "easy-peasy, a monkey could do it".  Two stars would be "you'll need a little concentration and some dexterity".  Three star - "Requires adult beverages and the patience of Job".  Four star - "Adult beverages before AND after, grow an additional hand, and don't even consider it if  you don't have all day."

I would say that currants fall under the Four Star rating.

That said, this year was the most abundant harvest of all the five years I've had my red and black currant bushes.  The currants were as large as gooseberries (another Four Star rating).

That is NOT a gooseberry on the right.
This was from two bushes of each, red and black.  I always get twice as many reds as blacks, although this year it is almost four times more on the red side!  You may notice that the black currants (as in the smallest amount) have been de-stemmed.  I am working my way through the reds - a perfect exercise whilst watching Midsomer Murders DVDs.

Thursday evening I came home and, in the midst of evening chores (as in wading through the dogs and cat while preparing evening chow), I stepped in a puddle of water that had pooled from the bottom of the fridge.  It was the first time ever that I actually hoped it was dog pee.  Alas and alack, the old fridge is on its way out.  Instead of tackling The List first thing Saturday, I was out the door and in the appliance section of Home Depot early in the morning.  It's rather shocking, how expensive these things are.   I inherited a side-by-side, which I dislike intensely.  I had really hoped for a fridge up, freezer drawer down, but since I will be leaving the fridge when I eventually move, I opted to scale down to the basics.

Speaking of refrigerators, mine is struggling with the seasonal load:

Sorry for the dark photo - I have
two bins on the bottom and the last
shelf is dedicated to duck eggs.
Besides all of the fresh vege in there, there are seven dozen chicken eggs (this was after I sold three dozen to a summer resident of a vacation home...), six dozen duck eggs, my large container of GF baking mix, a quart of raw milk, various leftovers, a pile o' cheese, too many condiments, and a partial jar of bio-dynamic turmeric cinnamon iced tea.  Yowser! 

The new fridge will be delivered at some point Friday - I await my four hour designated window of time.  This drives the office crazy, as I don't know if I'll be in the office in the morning, afternoon or at all.  This also means that I will be working my way through the flotsam and jetsam that has accumulated over the year(s) and making some interesting meals.  Such as Sunday's:

Frozen mashed potatoes.

Ahi tuna steaks

First handful of beans from the garden!
The tuna steaks were fairly small, so I opted to cook both and use one for my lunch salad.  While I didn't take a picture of it, it was my lettuce, my cucumber, my neighbor's radishes, my handful of blueberries, Cabot's cheddar, and homemade vinaigrette.  Next on the menu is a smoked salmon quiche.  Oh, how I suffer....

Speaking of blueberries, in my effort to sort out and find room for the fridge freezer contents, I discovered a gallon bag of last year's blueberries!  Yikes!  I am due to do my annual picking soon, so the Barn Crew got Blueberry Cake for breakfast.

It was a hit!
There is nothing like an archeological dig through your fridge.  I discovered a bottle of sake that dates from....?  Then there are the three fish sauce containers, three kinds of mustard, lone bottle of root beer, gin-soaked golden raisins that were supposed to prevent some illness or condition if eaten daily, etc.  I see an interesting trip to both the compost pile and the recycling station in my very near future.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fusion = Fancy-Schmancy Leftovers.

I do believe my youngest sister was the first cook to use fusion.  When we were tall enough for our chins to clear the kitchen counters, my mother put us to work.  She made it so much fun, however, that we are still all three very inventive and happy cooks.  To give herself a day off (cleverly disguised as a SPECIAL EVENT), once a month we took turns planning and cooking Sunday dinner.  My middle sister and I were relatively sedate in our selections (although my Lobster Newburg got the kibosh), while the youngest threw herself into Mom's cookbooks with reckless abandon.  Ergo: Swedish Meatballs with Fried Rice.  To Mom's credit (and my father, by default), nothing was ever discouraged (except for the aforementioned lobster dish - too pricey for our limited income).

My lunches are fused to the max with whatever is leftover in the fridge.  Besides my infamous fridge-busting salads, I occasionally break out my tiffin box and make lunch a SPECIAL EVENT.  This means, obviously, that I am bored, bored, bored with salads.

Today's offering is (left to right, clockwise):

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower, Chicken Salad on Lettuce, Kohlrabi Slaw with Avocado Dressing

It's delicious, oddly monochromatic and almost all the ingredients are local to very local.  I am very pleased with my kohlrabi, although it seems to be twice the size recommended for harvest...