Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I can't wait to be hot again

Just a few shots from last year, in warmer times. The flower bed picture is from the end of March though, so it won't be long.

Chickens will be glad to loll in the sun and to have bugs to eat again.

And I seriously can't wait for homegrown fruits and vegetables. *sigh* I transplanted the lettuce and stock seed growing in the greenhouse window on Sunday. And noticed two tiny little tomatoes on the plant. They looked oblong, so perhaps a roma tomato. Yum. I think I need a real greenhouse.
The other day I made this sweet and sour red cabbage recipe. I could eat it for days and days and not get tired of it. But maybe that is just me. It uses balsamic vinegar, and given a good quality balsamic, I could do shots of it. That is how much I like balsamic vinegar. This recipe was really really easy and really really good. Actually, most everything I find on Simply Recipes is good. I also made this tuna noodle casserole recently. I was craving something 'comfort foody' and hadn't had it in years. I added another can of Cream of Mushroom as it wasnt' quite as creamy as I wanted. Very good. But not something you might want to make very often as it involves a crushed potato chip crust. Whisks you right back to those casserole days of your youth.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Rohrer's Seeds

So yesterday I had a really early day. I had to be in Dover, Delaware early in the morning for a meeting, meaning I would be coming home in the early afternoon. Right past Rohrer's Seeds. During Business hours. Yay.

I purchased a bunch of seeds from my hardware store earlier but I still had a lot to buy. I've only been in Rohrer's once before, briefly. I knew that had tons of tons of seeds packets, but I didn't look closely at them because at the time I was in the market for heirloom tomato plants (having scorched all the ones I started from seed last winter).
So there I am yesterday, cash in hand, wanting to buy seeds. Not only do they have their own brand of seed, but they also carry varieties of Seeds of Change, Seed Saver's Exchange, Johnny's, Botanical Interest, Landis Valley Heirloom Seed Project, and a few other ones that I was not familiar with. I was like a kid in a candy store! So many many seeds. But I have a new favorite. Franchi Seeds from Italy. Oh.My.God. First of all, the seed packets are roughly 4 by 6 inches in size with lovely pictures on them. Instructions are printed in like 6 different languages with a zonal map of southern Europe on it. And they had some really cool varieties. But they were $2.99 a pack, so I held back. I only got four things.

Rapini (Broccoli Raab). I was going to buy the Rohrer's variety, but I figured Rapini from Italy would probably be a little tastier. Yum. Their website has about 10 different kinds.

Ugly but Good melons. That is the translation. Ugly but Good. How cute are these?

Genovese Zucchini. The Basil is great, so the zucchini must be as well, correct? Well, maybe not. But aren't they pretty?

Christmas Peppers or Pimiento. So cute. I'm such a sucker for little peppers. I'll have to start these soon. I was hoping for some really cool eggplant varieties from this company, but they didn't have any. They had two really wild radish varieties that I was not brave enough to try but looked really interesting.

A giant black winter radish.
Christmas Candle Radish.
I won't tell you how much I spent in total. But I will tell you that I got a 5 pound bag of Yukon Gold Seed Potatoes for.........$2.75!!!!!!!
Perhaps next week I'll list everything that I bought.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Auntie x 4

The newest niece. Less than 12 hours old. Oh my. All these little girls. And it is very dangerous for me to cuddle a warm little bundle in the grey days of February. It makes me revisit the decision and nobody can think straight when under the influence of new baby smell. The husband gets particularly intoxicated. Ironic since the day before he was listing the positives (for us) about deciding not to have children. Twenty minutes of a newborn snuggle-bunny batting her clear blue unfocused eyes and its all out the door. What a pushover.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Well that sucked

"I'm kind of excited" I said....about the snow. Stupid, stupid me. Well, I guess snow would have been okay. The four inches of sleet on top of the snow wasn't. Nor was the freezing rain and then more snow on top of that. And then sub zero wind chills with 40 mph winds. Ha. The driveway was one giant sheet of foot thick ice and my car was in the garage. I couldn't shovel it. Plows wouldn't work. So at 7pm last night a farmer with a skidloader on a flatbed truck opened up our driveway for us. I was trapped in my house for two days. Husband was hardly home because of work and had to park on the front lawn in the one protected area we could chip away at. Getting stuck coming in and going out, resulting in an hour of shoveling, chipping, throwing down craked corn and cat litter on both ends. Fun. I took lots of pictures of birds.

One lone bird (see the tracks coming up to the door?) checking to see if the coast is clear.

It was. At some points in the day there were upwards of 30 Mourning Doves on the front porch trying to get out of the wind.

Birds eating the cracked corn out of my husband's tire tracks after we got him out.

Weird sheet icicle hanging at an angle on the front porch. I guess that is what happens when ice melts in a 40 mph wind.
I guess it could have been worse. I could have been trapped in my car on Interstate 78 for two some people.
On the bright side, I'll have lettuce in a few weeks.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Winter Storm Warning

It reached almost 40 degrees here today. So much better than what it has been. But we are under a winter storm warning. Probably 6 inches of snow (doesn't sound like much of a storm) mixed with freezing rain. I am kind of excited. If I can't have an early spring, then we might as well have snow. Plus it seems that it doesn't get as bitter cold when there is a layer of snow on the ground. I hope we get walloped!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Old Sled Works

So, as I was saying, I went antiquing on Saturday with my friend. Not really antiquing, more like browsing old stuff. I always picture antiques as really old and really expensive. We went to the Old Sled Works in Duncannon, PA. It is now an antique dealer mall with over 125 vendors but it used to be the Standard Novelty Company which made Lightning Glider sleds from 1904 to 1990. In addition to a little museum thing that shows all the different sleds that made and lots of historic pictures, they have great old stuff....especially great old kitchen stuff! Which makes my heart go pitter pat.
After Christmas I was looking at Martha Stewart refrigerator containers, the precursor to tupperware and gladware etc. She had some nice refrigerator-ware but it was pretty expensive. And boring looking. So I started looking around. I got this set of Pyrex refrigerator ware for far less than new Martha Stewart stuff and it is so much much cuter. Plus I got another blue one and this
cute little glass one (that someone stenciled tomatoes and radishes on) for a dollar a piece. I will have adorable leftover vessels for the rest of my life!! Go me!!

I also got (for $2) this super cute vintage tea towel which will learn me my cuts of meat and where they come from on the respective animal. In case I ever get as committed as Jamie and want to purchase a half hog. Or a half sheep (do they come in halves?) Or a cow.

And for $1 I got this cute little floral apron that was in really good condition. It is so soft and you can tell that is was well used. I wore it last night to make sausage and peppers. Hee. It fits in well with the rest of my aprons. I probably have enough now, but really, how can you pass up a $1 apron?

My aprons live here, in my laundry room with my grandfathers clothespins and my old bars of Fels Naptha soap (in the jar between the plants). Click here to visit someone else whose laundry room is spruced up with aprons.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The weekend

Little bit of snow on Friday afternoon. Not enough to write home about. It was downright balmy compared to today. We're in the single digits with a treacherous windchill. It was down to ZERO overnight, so yesterday the chickens got a heat lamp installed in addition to their water heater and are faring well. I seriously do not want to deal with frostbitten combs and toes nor do I want to have to contemplate amputation. I'm probably being overcautious, but oh well.

Things were pretty much melted and the roads were clear by Saturday morning, so I could make my way out in search of good junk. More on that in a later post. I got some fun stuff!

We had fires in the woodstove on Friday and Saturday nights, but Sunday we started early. Nothing like reading the morning paper by the fire. And then reading gardening books the rest of the day battling to keep animals off your lap.

Chessie and Roy stayed by the fire all day. They both love to be very warm. Emmett (not a lover of heat) stayed in the doorway to the room and kept an eye on the unholy alliances forming in front of the woodstove.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Whistle Pig Day!

Did you hear? Spring is coming! Woohoo! We were supposed to get snow last night and today (only a few inches) but the morning dawned bright and sunny and almost above freezing! Anyway, a few odds and ends today.

First: I just joined Netflix. We don't go to the movies and we only rent movies maybe once or twice a month. But for two movies at Blockbuster, its almost $10. So when I saw that Netfliz had a $9.99 plan, one movie at a time, unlimited for a month, I thought well, cheaper than Blockbuster and probably lots more movies and documentaries that I'd like to watch than are available at Blockbuster. Two weeks later and I'm a Netflix addict and eagerly awaiting the little red envelope in my mailbox. At home right now, the first disc of the multipart documentary "The Farmer's Wife" originally shown on PBS. But you know how you can never think of what you want when forced to choose? Well I just can't think of all those indie films or foreign films or missed PBS series when I'm scrolling through the choices. So what are some of your favorite films? Things that you think I would like. I want to keep the red enevelopes coming.

Second: I promised a few recipes to some people and have thrown in a few that I've made recently and have really, really liked.

I made French Lentil Soup on Saturday. Yummy and suprisingly easy. And I served it with Farmgirl's Beyond Easy Beer Bread. Whenever I've made beer bread in the past, it has always turned out semi-brick like. But this recipe resulted in a really nice loaf that was a close approximation of real bread. I added shredded sharp cheese, garlic, and cayenne pepper and it went really well with the soup.

I promised Jamie this recipe for Fig Cake. This cake is the reason we lug back several jars of fig preserves from North Carolina every September. Yummy. And different.

Frances’ Fig Cake

Preheat oven to 350°
Grease bundt pan and dust with flour

3 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
½ tsp. Nutmeg
½ tsp. Cloves
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Salt
2 cups plain white flour
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. Baking soda, dissolved in 1 Tbs. Water
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 cup preserved figs, chopped
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

In a medium bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy. Add sugar and beat until pale and thick. Add oil and beat another minute.

Sift together spices, salt and flour. Add to eggs alternately with buttermilk beating well after each addition.

Stir in soda, dissolved in water, vanilla, figs and nuts.

Pour into pan and place in preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 20 minutes and then invert onto a rack and cool completely. Dust with confectioners sugar if you want.

Serves 10-12

Recipe from The Backporch Restaurant Cookbook by Debbie Wells

And since I have this cookbook in my hands at the moment, I think I promised this black bean casserole recipe to Liz about a year ago.

Cuban Black Bean and Monterey Jack Cheese Casserole

2 cups dried black beans, picked over for rocks, covered completely with water, and soaked overnight
½ gallon water
1 tsp. Salt
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. Dried oregano
2 tsp. Dried thyme
2 tsp. Fresh minced garlic
1 ¼ cup water
½ cup white rice
dash salt
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 ½ cups onion, diced
1 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
2 tsp. Fresh minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or veggie broth
¼ tsp. Salt or more to taste
2 dashes coarse black pepper
¼ tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes
4 tsp. Ground cumin
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup blanched almonds
4 cups (about 1 pound) grated Monterey Jack Cheese
¼ cup dry bread crumbs

Drain soaking water from beans, rinse thoroughly and put in a heavy bottomed soup pot with ½ gallon water. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam that forms on top, then add salt, bay leaf, oregano, thyme and garlic. Cover and cook for about 2 hours until beans are soft and the liquid is thick. Stir often.

Bring 1 ¼ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice and dash of salt, cover and lower heat. Cook until rice is soft and all water is absorbed. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. Oil in large sauté pan. Add onions, peppers, and garlic. Saute until soft.

When beans are done, add the cooked rice, peppers and onions, wine, broth, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin, raisins, and almonds. Stir well to blend and cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes until mixture begins to thicken. Correct salt if necessary.

Butter a deep 10 x 13 casserole dish and cover bottom and sides with the grated cheese, reserving ¾ cup for the top. Fill with the bean mixture. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and reserved cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until top is crusty and beans are bubbling.

Approx. 6-8 servings.

Also from the Backporch Cookbook.

If you ever find yourself on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, you can't beat this restaurant. And do order the Blue Crab Beignets. To.Die.For.