Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I crave the sun


Why do we drive in search of winter sunshine baths like this? 


Because we live under this!
That's not a lake, it's a valley full of dense winter fog.


Driving back home is hard...


Up ahead is the wall of gloomy doomy fog...
and we have to dive down into it.


Closer,
closer, closer...


Ack!


Looking back up the hill, we can just barely make out the dim
circle of the sun. 


Looking ahead, more fog.


The road doesn't really end, it just looks that way.
And feels that way.


Poor horses, they can't jump in the car
and go for a drive up into the sunshine.


Ah, sunshine.  That looks so much better!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Post Thanksgiving snow tramp


Mr. Boom and I took a drive up into the hills today for a post-Thanksgiving tramp through the woods.  The sky was a deep blue, almost like we were back up in the Northern Cascades. 


Lines of animal tracks crossed and re-crossed our path up the valley floor.  During the summer, it's easy to see where the deer and elk have tromped through, but with snow on the ground, it's easy to see even the smallest creatures' tracks--like rabbits and squirrels and mice.

A squirrel ran into this hole on the right side of the path...


after emerging from this hole on the left side of the path.


A coyote crossed the path here, then ran up the side of the hill.


This coyote developed an oddly wide stance....


More gemstone skies...


More tracks.

And my very favorite wildlife sign of all...
Size 13 1/2 tracks...very easy to follow!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

November Daring Bakers: Crostata (tarts)


The first rustic tart I ever made was from a recipe by Martha Stewart. It was her ricotta crostata. I quickly fell in love with crostata quite madly and have made them many a time since.


Why the hard crush?

A) They're supposed to look homey and rustic, which means that every split in the crust, every over-darkened crag, every bit of seepage from under the crust means that it's looking more and more like it should. Flaws are the perfection in a crostata. Therefore, it's my kind of creation.

B) I've mastered the art of making crostata with relatively little mess. I make my crust in a food processor in large batches, then freeze it in single crust portions. So, when I'm ready to make a tart, I simply take a bag out of the freezer and let it rest for a few hours in the fridge or on the counter. I then roll out the crust on a sil-pat, pile on the fruit, then fold up. Easy and neat.

C) If, for some reason (of which there are way too many to count in my case), the crostata fails, there isn't a lot of time or fruit wasted in the process.

D) Crostata are good for using small amounts of fruit--think about the last of the plums from the tree, a few meager handfuls of huckleberries, or the couple of apples on the verge of going bad after sitting on the counter a bit too long. Any of these are sufficient for a crostata, and all are elevated to a fine rank simply with the enshrouding cape of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.


Really, there isn't' anything not to love about a crostata.


The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Today's crostata was three apples from the orchard of Mr. Boom's aunt. Maybe a third cup of sugar? A sprinkling of ground cloves, a double sprinkling of cinnamon, and a few dots of butter. Oh, and a healthy sprinkling of turbinado sugar on top just before baking.

Our Black Friday shopping consisted of a Christmas tree permit from the US Forest Service. Today we're decorating the tree and inhaling the warmth of crostata aromas. I love Daring Bakers, and I love the annual tradition of pulling ornaments from their boxes and engaging in a healthy dose of remember whens...

I hope you're having a great weekend, too, no matter how you choose to start the Christmas season.


Head over to the Daring Bakers to see other some of the amazing creations of the other Daring Bakers, and to download the recipe straight from the source!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In winter's grip

It's really hard to believe our yard ever looked like this:


We're thickly blanketed in snow, more snow is falling, and now our world looks like this:


Tomorrow night we'll be down in the single digits on the thermometer. I can feel my blood cooling and thickening, and the urge to just hibernate under the bedcovers is strong.

We brought our five goldfish in from the pond today, and put the winter-safe water-dish in the hens' pen, and put a heatlamp in their coop. Thermal underwear is not a fashion statement anymore--it's a requirement to keep the joints from seizing.

Hot tea, hot cocoa, hot coffee. This holy trinity is all that bouys me and stands between me and the sweetly beckoning bed upstairs.

Brrrrrrrrrrrr.

Friday, November 19, 2010

FFwD: Potatoes au Gratin

My computer chose today of all days to catch a virus.
I was trying to download templates to make seed packets, when I clicked on something I shouldn't have...
Apparently you can get a virus from clicking a google image thumbnail...
Live and learn!
I shot the photo with my droid phone and I'm trying to build a post in it as well.
the potatoes are really really good. I'll definitely make this again.
search the web for french fridays with dory to see what other people have done.

Friday, November 12, 2010

FFwD: Caramel-topped Semolina Cake

Like the Vietnamese soup we made last month, this week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe is a recipe I wouldn't have ever tried unless dared to. I wasn't a bit scared this week, though, since that soup was the best soup I've ever made. If you haven't made it yet for yourself, would you please go out and buy Dorie's book and make that soup? Thank you.

Essentially, a semolina cake is a cross between a flan and something else--maybe a bread pudding as someone else suggested? It's moist and it's eggy, and just the tiniest bit rubbery.

Or maybe that was just mine. This dessert was not a stellar success. As much as I love Dorie, and as much time as I've spent captivated by this book, I'm beginning to notice the flaws. Now, don't get me wrong! Flaws are the mother of uniqueness, and there isn't anything creepier in my mind than an air-brushed makeup model in bigger-than-life size on the back of a magazine. I relish the flaws in my life--maybe even more-so than the perfections at times. But, that doesn't mean they don't exasperate me as well!

So, the instructions for this recipe call for the addition of Cream of Wheat cereal to hot milk, and cooking until thickened. Anyone knows, or at least anyone who's ever made cooked cereal knows, that the process starts as a liquid and can be taken all the way to a solid.

So.

At what point is it "thickened?" I wish the book contained more clarity in its instructions, especially in recipes that are most likely unfamiliar with her audience. Do I stop cooking the cereal when it still pours off the spoon, or when it sticks to the spoon, or when the cereal will support the spoon standing straight up out of the pot?

Here's where I stopped:


This cake has a caramel top. Rather, this cake has a caramel bottom. Wait. This cake is baked with caramel on the bottom, but is flipped over for presentation, so the top is caramel.

Duck's Ditty! How'd that go? Ducks' tails, drakes' tails, yellow feet a quiver, yellow bills all out of sight, busy in the river... Something like that? Good ol' Grahame!

To ease the dispersal of the caramel evenly over the entire bottom of the pan, the pan is first heated in the oven. This idea is so brilliant. I could have used this idea before, and will definitely use it again.

(Sticky buns, I'm talking to you!)


The batter is dumped over-top the caramel, and the whole mess baked about a half hour.



Not the most stellar-looking dessert ever... and not the tastiest dessert ever.

Somehow, though, I'm a bit inspired to try it again. I'd like to see the difference between the regular sugar version and a brown sugar version. I also think a bit of orange flavor would help a lot. I see this recipe heading in a lot of directions, but the first stop ought to be a re-write of it's own directions.

Next week's challenge is Potato Gratin. A dish I'm more familiar with, a dish where the vagaries are old friends. I can't wait!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

FFwD: Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux

Can you guess what les paresseux means? It's absolutely fitting for this week's French Fridays with Dorie post. Considering that today is Sunday, after all.

Je suis paresseux, bien sur!

Lazy.


Today we took a gorgeous drive up into the hills, capturing some of the last fall color for 2010, and getting a healthy little inoculate dose of winter 2011.

I left a chicken defrosting on the counter while we were out. The entire time I was mentally chiding the kitties to stay away from the bird. I suppose I could have pulled the nice little hen out too the freezer yesterday, but I was too lazy. Upon arriving back home, I ran out to the garden to grab some rosemary, oregano, and thyme. I could have done that ahead of time, but I was too lazy.


I also could have peeled the red and blue potatoes, but again, laziness prevailed. I figured that since the recipe directly tranlates into roaxt chicken for lazy people, I had Dorie's blessing the whole way.

Having made fresh loaves of bread yesterday, I was able to follow Dorie's suggestion of placing a thick slice of bread underneath the hen as it roasts.


Oh. Holy. Heck.

I actually lied to Mr. Boom and Chirp-chirp. I told them the crusty greasy bread that resulted, thickly spread with the chicken liver and some of the roasted garlic, was only so-so.

People.
Listen.
Try this technique.
Then lie like me.





As we came 'round this last corner before pulling over to sit and stare at the falling snow, a bit of a poem by Emily Dickenson popped into my head. "Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me."

Except instead of death, it's winter. And instead of him stopping by, it was us checking in. So really, it didn't apply at all. Except there it was in my head. And I just thought I'd share.

But not my chicken toast. No way I'm sharing that. Ever!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Enough!

Not the prettiest...


 Not the tastiest...


 Not the most creative use of chocolate...

 

But, you lucky girl...


Wow...
I hesitsated to enter this contest.
I'm so glad I just jumped in and tried!


79 out of 80 miniature sourcream chocolate cakes with
cream cheese peanut butter frosting
and peanut butter ganache were devoured.

And after this shot was taken...
none remained.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And then the latex glove ruptured...

Remember this?

And this?

My job rocks--usually.

Other times, not so much.

Other times, even less so.

Today? all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand, man.

Of course, Lady Mac Beth follows her lament with a well-scripted (and maybe better acted?) Oh, oh, oh.

My lament ended with less dignified words. Mine was closer to oh *@#!, oh $%#$, oh $#@$!!!

Today I had to do what I've been putting off all summer long. Cleaning up the mess left by six red-wing blackbirds in a large metal box perched at the end of a walkplank over the top of a wasteway. Cool, huh?

No.

The tools at hand were one latex glove, one trowel, a pouch of wet-wipes, a screwdriver, and an empty jug of what used to be distilled and de-ionized water.

First came the scraping of the nesting materials, the bug casings, the poop, and the dessicated mold. What followed was a dismal attempt at scooping up the dry powder with a trowel and lifting it over the ledge of the box and flinging it into the wind.

Oh, didn't I mention the wind that came up, constantly shifting directions, swirling around me as I threw the friable dust away from my body--to be immediately blown back into my face, my hair, my nose...

Then came the dousing with water. There's a hole centered in the bottom of the box that theoretically-speaking should have drained the water from the box. Except the box is canted heavily to one side, as it turns out, and why would it not turn out that way? And one side of the hole has a small wall sticking up about 4 inches.

And, why yes, that wall was on the downhill side!

Enter the one latex glove! Swish the water from one side of the box up past the wall and back around the other side to go down the hole. Quickly, or the saturated bird poo and mold will fall out of the solution and remain a pile of mud on the far side of the box. Not too quickly, of course, or it all splashes up and into the face.

Oh, and did I mention the wind?

This was working tolerably well until the latex glove ruptured......

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, when I finally made it back to the office I was immediately told to go home and take a shower. They didn't want me in the office.

They followed me out of the office liberally applying Lysol in both liquid and spray form to the air, the doorhandles, the walls...

I've now showered, and am contemplating drinking some bleach. This scalding hot ginger tea just isn't quite doing it.

All the perfumes of Arabia, man. All the perfumes of Arabia.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Listing

It might look like I’m sitting here doing nothing other than staring off into space, staring back at my screen, off into space, back at my screen, off into space, back at my screen…

But really, the cogs are moaning and groaning and slowly finding their intended interconnections. As a result, thoughts are forming! Plans are getting planned. Lists are straightened up (does anyone get that pun besides me?) and typed with bullet point precision on my brain, with imminent transferal to the screen looming. I’m printing maps; I’m calculating drive times. I’m heading off to Bet’s next weekend for the annual gingerbread house fete.

Since middle school, with just a few years missed here and there, Bet and I have made gingerbread houses every Christmas. They haven’t always been the biggest, the grandest, the neatest, or the greatest, but they’ve always been the most sincere. Linus would like ‘em.

And what could be the icing on top of the icing? I get to meet Murr! I love her writing, her point of view, her self-accepting style. The thought of meeting her gives me butterflies. I get to go eat at the popular girls’ table. Heaven help me.

Lists. I’m going to Powell’s, which requires updating my list of Books that I have/Books that I don’t have/Books I need to have/Books I might need to have.

Lists. I’m likely to hit the Sur la Table kitchen store near Powell’s, which requires updating my list of Tools that I have/Tools that I don’t have/Tools I need to have/Tools I might need to have.

Lists. I need a map to Bet’s. I need a map to Portland. I need a map of Vancouver in case I decide to go see the Fort again.

Lists. CANDY! Our houses will need red-hots, M&Ms, gum drops, chocolate rock candy, peppermint swirls, mulit-colored sunflower seeds…

Lists.

Lists.

Lists.

Oh my.