Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ouch! (by Kat)

One of these eggs is not like the other...

Can you imagine how that poor hen must have felt?

I made a wish before I cracked the egg...

Hooray! A double yolk!

My wish will come true.

In other news, besides the giant egg we've had
very large hail and an earthquake.

Hang on to your hats, folks. Something's abrew...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Awww...How Cute! (by Kat)

Three guesses as to why Sky is peering over the ledge of the box!

Saturday was Free Chick Day at the local hardware store.

Small town style, the radio station had an announcer present, a pizza place was giving away pizza slices, doughnuts and coffee were on hand, and Girl Scouts were selling cookies.

Here's the three answers to the three guesses: "No," "Brown," and "Black." Despite their names, they're mostly likely Rhodesian Reds. Come August, they'll be giving us brown eggs. We were hoping to score some Araucanas, in which case blue eggs would greet us in the nest. There's a wee slim chance these could be them, but I'm not holding my breath. They're so wonderfully fuzzily cute, I really don't care what breed they are.

We're handling them quite a bit, getting them used to being held and loved, so they'll have a nice demeanor as they grow. Some folks argue that the breed has more to do with the disposition than the environment. I think it's some of both. Kind of like people.

The cats are curious, and like to keep an eye on the chicks, but don't seem inclined to hurt the little fuzzballs. I really get a kick out of watching one cat keep an eye on another cat who in turn is sniffing the birds a little too closely. I can't tell if the second cat is secretly egging the first one on..."come on, I dare you!" or if he's just getting ready to tattle. I think it's some of both. Kind of like people.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

March Daring Bakers Challenge: Orange Tian (by Kat)

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

A tian, as best as I can tell, is any layered fruit or vegetable dish. I was already familiar with the more traditional vegetable tian, wherein long and broad slices of zucchini or eggplant are layered with colorful veggies like red and yellow bell peppers, carrots, and other healthy flavorful crap. A tian, in my mind, was merely a trick to make folks think that eating veggies was fun. I was wrong.

Why didn't anyone ever bother to tell me about DESSERT tians? Hmmm? Hmmm????

So, instead of, say, eggplant, you plop a cookie down. Then, instead of, say, carrots, you spread on some orange marmalade (see? fruit! it's healthy!). Then, instead of, say, peppers, you schmear some whipped cream on. Then, to continue the healthy theme, you prettily layer orange pieces that soaked overnight in a caramelized sugar syrup. Finally, instead of vinaigrette, you pour on more orange-caramel sauce.

I do love a good health-food recipe, don't you?

What did I learn this month?

1) stabilized whipped cream. neat trick resulting form the addition of gelatin to whipped cream.

2) sable cookies. yum!

3) orange marmalade. hated the stuff since forever. made my own for this challenge and simply loved it! if you think you dislike marmalade, please try making your own!

Wash and slice some oranges. Remove any seeds, but keep the peel on.
Cover with water, boil ten minutes, drain.
Repeat two more times.

Finely dice up the oranges, and then measure
(preferably by weight, but volume is okay, too.)

Add an equal amount of sugar.
Boil hard, until a spoonful on a cool plate gels.

Make your stabilized whipped cream.

Line your ramekins with plastic wrap.

Then assemble your tian.


(P.S. Throw another cookies on top, and eat them frozen.
Think creamsicle crossed with an ice-cream sandwich...)

Here's the recipe:

For the Pate Sablee:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogeneous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Marmalade:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams
1 large orange used to make orange slices
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measure and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges.

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

For the Caramel:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]

For the Whipped Cream:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 tsp Gelatin
1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatin and hot water, stirring well until the gelatin dissolves. Let the gelatin cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatin slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.
[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

Assembling the Dessert:

Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snugly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Scurrying (by Kat)

I'm scurrying, scurrying, scurrying today!

Tomorrow morning (can you really call it morning when it's still dark?) we head far and away.

In fact, we're leaving the country altogether.

Neither Mr. Boom nor Chirp Chirp have ever been to Victoria, B.C., so that's where we're going for spring break. We're taking the Clipper from Seattle, so we won't have a car. We're relying on the local bus system, backed up by the good reviews I've been looking for but haven't found on the internet.

Our hotel is two blocks from the dock where we'll alight. I'm hoping those are nice short blocks, and without significant elevation change. I've found that no matter how light I pack, hauling luggage just isn't fun. We stayed in Friday Harbor once, when Chirp Chirp was about two years old. From the dock to the B&B was only five blocks or so, but they were vertical blocks. I swear, climbing a ladder with her in one arm and our stuff in the other arm would have been easier than scaling that hill. Yes, look-ma-no-arms ladder-climbing would have been easier. Mr. Boom doesn't look back at that vacation fondly...

So, yes, we'd like a flat walk to the hotel, and a room with a waterfront view. I'd also like to meet the queen. Yeah. I'll settle for one out of three!

We all want to visit Butchart Gardens. Getting to it on the bus should be an adventure. I've read we should plan on 20 minutes to 1.5 hours for the trip. Okaaaaay. Pack food! Got it.

I don't want to go to the wax museum (still have nightmares from the trip there in middle school), they don't want to go to the museum. We might split up for a while and go our separate ways.

High tea? Not with my family, and not at those rates ($40+). Maybe when I meet the queen she'll invite me in for a nosh?

Have you been to Victoria recently? What do you recommend? How are the buses? Most importantly, is Dwight anywhere around?

See ya' next week!

PS Hey Bet, now would be a really good time to post :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Egads! A tick! Help! (by Kat)

I would have written about the fantastic hike we took this evening, but I just found a tick in my clothes.

The brain--it has ceased to function.

Doing laundry on hot. Hot!

This really was going to be a very lovely post with photos of wild turkeys and deer.

Shuddering, shuddering, shuddering.

Soon to be showering, showering, showering.

I really hate ticks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Saint Patrick's Day (by Kat)

Well, looky-see what came to me,
a vision of purple from St. Patty.

These johnny-jump-ups are very first flowers in our yard, and a most welcome site this evening.

"Boo" and "Hiss" to the doctors in the big city far away who changed my grandma's appointment from 8:30 to 11:30 without notifying us. We were finally seen at 1:00, and didn't get home until after 3:00. Too long a day for my grandma, and for me, too.

Pass the green (labeled) beer, please. I need it!

By the way, we have a batch of IPA home-brew fermenting in the closet even as we speak. I can't wait to taste it. If the smell is anything to go by, this is our best batch yet! For now, pass the Broken-Halo.

Cheers to St. Patrick! This round is on me!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Would a root by any other name be as bitter? (by Kat)

That plant I couldn't identify?
It's called bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva).

Like the national forest.
Like the mountain range.
Like this one-time archy has no excuse for not knowing....
So, a dope slap to the side of the head for me, and one more plant identification for you.

PS I've been waxing rhapsodic about cryptobiotic soils ever since the hike.
As far as I've found, no ode has ever been written to this magical phenomenon.
I have long waits at doctors offices tomorrow with my grandma.
Just a warning.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekend hike (by Kat)

So the buttercups stole the show yesterday, but they weren't the only flowers to be found .

See the little white puffs?


And this sole yellow flower.
My first thought was glacier lily, but that's not it--the leaves are too narrow.
I'm thinking Fritillaria pudica?

Finally, we came upon these sea anemones!

All the Googling in the world hasn't yielded the name of this little guy.
Anybody know?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Buttercups! (by Kat)

Mr. Boom and I woke up early this morning and ran up to the hills. The sun shone through our bedroom window in a long-forgotten angle, and we just KNEW we had to make a run for it! That particular angle meant spring! It promised beauty and warmth and squishy mud under our boots. It whispered that we might find some antlers that deer and elk are now shedding. It yelled at us to get the heck out of the house at this very instant! Being obedient sorts (ha!), we did.

The snow is still thick on the mountain ranges surrounding our valley, but the lower hills have lost their blanket.

As we traipsed up a draw, the still-frozen soil crunched under our feet, but as we neared the upper portion, the soil grew less firm, and then it was downright muddy. We started up a toe slope, and discovered a buttercup!

Then this!

Then these!

Then a stream!

An ocean!

Oh heavens above...
Spring has sprung!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm not dead (by Kat)

No, really, I'm still alive....

Bet posted! Did you see that? If any of you were thinking she was just my invisible friend, I'm sorry to disappoint. She's real, she's wonderful, and in my eyes (and her kids' and her husband's and her student's etc.) she really is a superhero, in spite of her protestations and other bemoanings.

So, we finally fixed the leak in the roof. That was fun. Every vacation should find you safe and sound back at home in a puddle of water in the kitchen. Yep.

Planted our spring seeds...and the chickens promptly flew the coop and ate them all up. That was fun. Yep.

Been fighting dizzy spells and fevers for the past two weeks. Fun. Yep.

You see why I haven't been posting? I'm a whiner. I'm in a big fat whiny mood.

OH! Best mood enhancer of late? The Good Life! You can watch it instantly on Netflix. A solid middle-class couple decide to give up on traditional commerce and values. They decide to become self-sustaining on their little lot in the suburbs of London. It's a British series, shot in the early 1970's. I can't tell you how much I love British TV. The actors look like real people. Paris Hilton couldn't make it in British film--hooray!

Other mood enhancers? Bet's mom has crocus blooming in her yard. Mine aren't up yet, but the hops are poking through the soil, as well as some bulbs. I planted a ton of free day lilies last fall (Freecycle rocks my world!) and those are coming up. I'm glad to see they survived this winter.

Of course, it did snow a bit this morning, so they're not out of the woods yet.

I'm taking Friday off from work, so I'll try to post something nice a wonderful and heartwarming then. In the meantime, chins up! Solider on! Hup two! Land ho! Steady as she goes!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

I want to be a superhero (by Bet)

At long last I am back.  It is to tell you that I am no longer satisfied being me.  I no longer want to sit on the couch, live vicariously through other bloggers, and teach in a completely dependable manner.  Instead, I want to be a superhero.  Not one that wears a cape and but one that:

 has real muscles,

can freeze people and time like this from Charmed,

can freerun,

and hula hoop

But that means I would have to get up off my couch. Since I love my couch I guess I am going to go on living my neutral life and continue dreaming about being a superhero.

Hope you are having a "super" day! 

*All of these images are "borrowed" from google images.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The View from Paradise (by Kat)

Last Thursday I was a busy little beaver. First, I signed Mr. Boom out of work for Friday. Second, I made reservations for Mr. Boom and I to stay at the Mt. Rainier lodge for two nights. Third, I arranged for my aunt to come and stay with our daughter for the weekend. Fourth, I filled Mr. Boom in on the plan over dinner Thursday night.

So it was that we found ourselves waking up on Saturday morning on top of Mt. Rainier to celebrate 15 years of wedded bliss.

We made the slow, leisurely drive up on Friday. A few mountain sheep were seen not too far from home, and later on there were elk and a few deer. Most exciting (to me) was the little snowshoe hare we startled up as we followed a little trail down to a creek along the way.

Dwight Schrute (from the Office) was our waiter at two of the meals. Not really. But the waiter was certainly channeling Dwight for all he was worth. He had the look down, the mannerisms were precisely right, and I seriously was torn the entire time--laugh at him or kill him? Geeez Louise!

Saturday morning (post Dwight) we took the gorgeous winding route up to Paradise. The photo above was taken from Paradise. I think the name is appropriate, don't you?

So, anyway, I've been sicker than a sick dog on and off since we returned, certainly not up to to blogging much, but I just had to show you the view from Paradise. I think I needed to remind myself that it was real.

It all seems to be a dream....