Monday, April 30, 2012

Recent Happymaking Tidbits

I like going to the dentist in the way that other people like going to get their nails done.
It makes me feel manicured in my mouth.

I recently organized our spices.  Some of them used to be in these tins and it wasn't working out so well.
The reorganization creating a nice trickle down effect.
Spices are now organized in airtight containers and my earrings now live in these cute tins with glass lids.

Riding the train when it is hot out is like being in a moving art gallery what with all of the tattooed Minneapolitans (Minneapolites?) there are. I feel similarly about the locker room at my gym. In fact, this week I saw an 60-something woman with a tattoo smack dab on the middle of her butt cheek.

Bottling Kombucha
This has become a staple beverage in our house within the past few months.
I've enjoyed getting better at making it bubbly and adding flavors.

Somebody left a withdrawal slip for 10 million dollars in my work's drop box. I do not work for a bank, so I have to imagine that someone thinks our drop box functions like throwing coins in a fountain.

We finally painted our bedroom walls.  We completed the paint job a few months ago and I am still happy every time I go in there and see the color.  Good riddance dusty purple walls!

The garden is tilled and the peas are planted!  Tilling is hard work, but very satisfying.  We skipped tilling last year and our garden didn't do as well.  Here's hoping the tilling does the trick this year!

We have been working on clearing out our pantry and freezer to make room for this year's harvest.  It is immensely satisfying to make up meals based around the dehydrated, canned and frozen ingredients we have on hand.  The everything-but-but-the-kitchen-sink style meals have been turning out pretty tasty, too!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tangy Chive Sauce

I mentioned earlier that I would share the recipe for a chive-based green sauce that I have been making lately.  Well, as my mom warned me, I better get it out there fast since fresh chive season is at its prime now (or at least in Minnesota, it is).

For this sauce, you will need preserved lemons.  They are really easy to make and have become a staple in our kitchen.  Lemons plus salt plus time equals a burst of tangy, tart flavor that adds a welcome zing to so many savory dishes.  It really sings when paired with lentils, which is why I knew it had to be a part of this sauce.

Tangy Green Sauce

2/3 c. olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 c. champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar would be a fine substitute)
1/2 of a preserved lemon (I use the rind and the flesh)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
a fistful of chives (about a 1/2 to 3/4 c. if chopped)

Simply place all of these ingredients together and blend until smooth.  A high speed blender like a vitamix works splendidly for this task.

I can imagine there are many potential uses for this sauce, but I haven't moved past pairing it with lentils and roasted veggies.  My first round included cauliflower, carrots and parsnips (roasted at 400 degrees F until a bit browned) and french lentils all mixed together with the sauce.

It was a wonderful, albeit not the most beautiful, dish.

Another version I made involved beets, onions, carrots, cauliflower and brown lentils.  That version was even less visually appealing, but equally delicious.

The combination of the salty, tangy sauce with the earthiness of lentils and the sweetness of roasted veggies is a total pleaser for my palate. And, judging by my empty bowl at the food swap potluck, it was enjoyable to them, too!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Early Spring Harvest

The early spring temperatures have yielded an early spring harvest. These tulips came inside to stay out of the cold last week. I inherited these tulips from the previous owner and each spring am so grateful for the burst of color they provide. I think this fall I really need to get some more spring bulbs in the ground. Since they are the first color to arrive, they really get savored. I'm thinking some daffodils are a must-add.

The chives are up already, too! I have nearly harvested all of ours for making batches of a green sauce. I'll post about that sauce soon, because it is too good not to share!

The spring onions are up, too! I used the first few of them in an egg salad sandwich this past weekend. I made the bread that day, too. I love it when the proportion of a meal's ingredients tips towards homemade vs store bought. Now, if only those eggs came from my own backyard!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pet Update

For those keeping track, these days you can find Tchazo sizing up the sentry at the door of his crate. He is not sure if she poses a real threat or a faux threat, but so far he hasn't tested the waters.

Jack spends a lot of time keeping his nose warm under his own armpit.

I think we are all looking forward to more of those days where the windows are open wide and the back deck is a nice, warm spot for lounging. We had a taste of it early on this year and I think we are all greedy for more!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marmalade Madness

As the season started to turn from winter to spring, I realized I had yet to do any winter preserving. I caught the marmalade madness one weekend soon after and I think I spent enough time elbow deep in citrus to tide me over until next winter.

The first batch was a meyer lemon marmalade, which I made by myself. Let me tell you, this was way too much slicing and seeding for my taste. I thought I was going to be aided by our new mandoline when it came to slicing the 5.5 pounds of lemons. The mandoline did a much better job of juicing then it seemed to be doing with slicing, so I had to do it all with a knife. Ouchy! I am not trained for that type of work, so my hands were pretty sore after I finished.

Luckily, round 2 of marmalade weekend involved a friend! Jamie came over to make Citrus Overload Marmalade.

This batch included a wide variety of citrus: tangelos, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, cara cara oranges, tangerines and lemons. This recipe is really only an option during the peek of citrus season when this wide of a variety of citrus (all organic!) can be found in the market here.

This batch was also very labor intensive and left a mound of citrus carnage behind. As the batch cooked down, we did a little more slicing to take advantage of the peels that were left out of the marmalade. We both have a few baggies of peels for experiments. If you have any favorite citrus peel suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. So far I am planning on drying some to add to tea and candying some, if I ever get around to it.

The obligatory tasting of the finished goods was conducted. Goat cheese and marmalade make for a good combo!

Finished goods:
Left: Meyer Lemon, Orange Blossom and Honey Marmalade
Right: Citrus Overload Marmalade
both recipes from Tart and Sweet

The next time I make marmalade, I would like to try one of the recipes that takes a few days. I would be interested in comparing the flavors. Ideally I would be able to find a method that yields a slightly less bitter marmalade.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Grandma's 94th and Easter

She may not have gotten rich this year, but we did gather again to help my Grandma's welcome in her 94th year. Her actual birthday was a week or so later, but Easter Sunday was a good time for us to all gather in Wisconsin for a celebration.

Grandma Rosie did indeed get some more cards with money this year. She also got new clothes, sugar free cookies, flowers and balloons.

She is still having a hard time hearing but is holding on to her sense of humor just fine. Among her favorite things are back scratches and hugs, which are easy to give!

Since it was Easter, there was also an egg hunt for the youngest ones. They even shared some of their sweets with their grandma and my mom despite having been instructed not to eat any themselves. Generous girls!

We had a beautiful, albeit windy, day with pre-lunch hula hooping.

And a post-lunch walk down a wind tunnel of a road.

On our walk we spotted some donkeys and some spring flowers but we never did find that eagle's nest. I am suspicious that the promise of an eagle's nest was just my Uncle Bill's ploy to get the masses outside for a walk!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

FO: Paulie Cardi

Hey! I finished a sweater! This one has been in the works since last September. In fact, I think I started it right before going on this retreat last fall. Yikes! That is a long time for me to spend on a project. I guess that is the sort of timeline you get when you aren't knitting very much and you have chosen a project with fingering weight yarn. In the end, I am glad to have put in the time. The lightweight fabric that resulted from all of those tiny stitches is both warm and comfortable without much bulk.

The yarn is Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk, which was quite pleasant to work with and not an itchy wool. The stripes are out of a merino wool and bamboo blend yarn from Happy Hands Hand Dyed Yarns. This yarn has a great sheen and the dye job is a wonderful mix of blues and greens with touches of khaki and brown. The stripes and the i-cord edging consumed so little of the skein that I am now in the process of knitting some wristwarmers out of the leftovers.

Of course, I finished the knitting on this a number of weeks ago. The sweater was in button-limbo for all that time. When I didn't find the right buttons in my stash, I headed to Treadle Yard Goods and ended up finding these lovely turquoise buttons. They had the some buttons in orange, which was mighty tempting. I am glad I went with turquoise as it will allow me to wear lots of colors underneath the sweater without it clashing.

Thanks to my sister Jessy for taking these photos for me and to my mom for bringing along her hula hoops for our Easter celebration. I think the hooping pictures are way more fun than this sort of straight-laced, sweater shot.

Oh! And, the pattern is called Paulie, which I thought was a fun coincidence considering I am married to Paul. Here is a link to my project on Ravelry.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fingers Crossed!

I mentioned in my last post that the weather in Minnesota (and nearly the entire country, I read) has been unseasonably warm. My apple trees have bloomed already! So, of course, it follows that we are now expecting an extended period of below freezing temperatures for the next 2 nights. I decided to throw together a slapdash set of protective strategies for the plants I care most about (read: the ones that produce things I can eat).

The strawberry plants received some makeshift greenhouses made out of cut up milk jugs. We inherited these from my dad and have had them in the garage for over a year waiting for a scenario like this. Paired with some random leftover wood to weight them down, I think they will do the job.

The smallest rhubarb plants will spend the night in a box, while the larger plants got a tarp blanket.

Paul was not too happy to be helping me tuck in our apple trees. We were out there with our painting blankets, a set of sheets and a ton of clothespins trying to make the best apple tree tents we could.

It is goofy looking, but perhaps it will be enough to save our apple crop this year. We have big plans, so it would be nice for the buds to make it through this cold snap.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Starting Seeds

I am all turned around. Is it April? May? October? This year is so confusing when it comes to timing a garden. The temperature in Minnesota has felt like spring for the past handful of weeks. As evidence, the tulips are up and the trees are budding leaves. While, at the same time, the ground and my garden are dry and covered in messes of fall leaves. The calendar says it is April so, according to that, I am on track for my gardening planning. Yet, all of the other indicators tell me I am late putting in the peas! I need to till the garden first, but the garden center says it is still too early for that. Oh, my!

I did spontaneously decide that I had all the right things to start some seeds indoors, so I turned a blind eye to the timing instructions on the seed packs and stuck them in some dirt. We have this little greenhouse set up in our front porch, which I am sure looks a bit suspicious from the outside. It has been 4 days and I have little kale sprouts! I am also trying to start purple tomatillos, eggplant, swiss chard and collards. I will probably throw some herbs into the mix, too. Getting this step done has really prompted some giddiness about another gardening season. Here's hoping we escape a hard frost until fall!
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