Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poached Pears with Lemongrass and Lime

Swee Peck made these wonderful pears for us last week. They are the perfect dessert - light and yet so full of flavor.

Poached Pears with Lemongrass and Lime

  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the pears
  • 1-2 stalks lemongrass, crushed*
  • 4 ripe, but firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into halves
  • 1 lime
  • Put sugar in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and the lemongrass. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer to create a syrup.
  • Add pears, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until half-tender, turn pears and simmer until just tender. The poaching time will vary depending on the size of the pears and their ripeness.
  • Add the juice of the lime and grate the zest into the pan.
  • Cover and let cool in the syrup until serving.
  • Remove the lemongrass, place pears on dishes, and drizzle syrup over pears.
  • Any leftover syrup is great on a fruit salad.
*To use lemongrass, peel away the tough outer leaves, about one layer, until you reach a more tender inner layer. Cut the lemongrass about halfway down from the top to the bottom, where the inner lemongrass turns tender. Discard the tough upper leaves. Crush the lemongrass with the side of your knife, kitchen mallet or a rolling pin.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Four blokes in the hill

After visiting the Black Hills Institute last week, we headed over to Mount Rushmore. It really is pretty cool, but I think that the view might be best from Iron Mountain Road. Pieter received a great book from our friends, called Who Pooped in the Black Hills? - Scat and Tracks for Kids. It has been fun to read and see many of the places we have explored in the Black Hills, including Mt. Rushmore. The author, Gary D. Robson, has done a whole series of them in different parks. 

Here are my two blokes. So cute!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The unlocked door

On good days the cat food stays put in the bathroom, behind a locked door. The kitties enter through a cat door and life is almost normal. But, sometimes Mama loses track of things. P tossed the food and started yelling and gesturing very excitedly. So much fun! The kittens loved it and had a little snack. I am thankful for good timing - I was just getting the vacuum out.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Free range boy

Last week spring arrived at our home. With the snow melted and most of the deer poo picked up from the backyard (thank you, Papa) we let P loose. He loves it! This is his first walking around the yard in his life. He loves helping us rake and especially likes playing with a shovel in the compost pile. We are having to keep a very close eye on him because he can now climb up the stairs to the slide, which he loves zooming down, and can climb on the swings all by himself, as he did above. If he sees his outside shoes, he grabs them and brings them to the door and starts exclaiming and gesturing to us that it is time to go out. This happened before breakfast, so Papa grabbed his coffee and went outside with Peeps for an early morning jaunt. 

Now, if only those wonderful spring temperatures will come back! We'd love to get outside again!

Friday, March 25, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. - AS
{the proposal}

Thursday, March 24, 2011


On our way to Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park, we stopped at Black Hills Institute in Hill City. We saw first hand the "kid in the candy shop" with our friend Charles and fossils. We explored the museum, which was very well done in their display and quality of fossils.
The main exhibit hall - stuffed full of several original dinosaur skeletons and full size replicas of the big dinosaurs and their relatives, and the highest quality invertebrate fossils.
STAN, the Tyrannosaurus rex, the second most complete T. rex. skeleton found to date. SUE is the largest and most complete skeleton found. BHI has collected eight different T. rex skeletons to date, including SUE, STAN, DUFFY, STEVEN, FOX, E D Cope, BUCKY, and WYREX.
Fossil cycad trunks that lived in the tropical climate that covered South Dakota.
Fossil bird from China with feathers preserved - this specimen has just been returned from Stanford where it was examined to see if it preserves evidence of the orignal pigmentation.
As an environmental educator, I thought this "dig" was perfect for visitors of all ages. 
My boys loved it!

Behind the Scenes Tour
We then were given an amazing behind the scenes tour of their facilities by an owner of BHI, Neal Larson, an ammonite expert. Mr. Larson has so much energy and knowledge in fossils. He has his hand in many areas of paleontology, from excavating and publishing research to education and for profit replica making. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with him.  

This mosasaur is Tylosaurus proriger from Upper Cretaceous, Niobrara Chalk of west-central Kansas. Quite a few shark teeth are with the skeleton, showing why the paddles are missing.
The for-profit part of BHI makes cast replicas for museums.
Here is one in process on the left. I love the use of legos in this work!
Ammonite Lovers Only 
All others will be extinct
I just loved this drawing on one of the specimen cabinets.
An actual tooth from Stan on the left.
A scientist in his element.
Replica skin, molded from the real skin and impression of a Triceratops.
Replicas of a bat and fish (left) and snake (right)
Drawers and drawers of ammonites.
Nature's fractals - the septal pattern of an ammonite - Sphenodiscus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fresh Spring Rolls

We are having a lovely week with friends of ours from our neighborhood back in Cambridge. Charles, Swee Peck and Kiri have come to visit us for the week, so things are busy here for us, from toddlers playing together to sightseeing around the Black Hills.  One thing that we enjoyed when we were neighbors was Sunday evening get togethers with these friends and our other neighbors, Dan and Tonia. One evening Swee Peck brought us Fresh Spring Rolls and we've been wanting more ever since. Well, she brought all the necessary ingredients in her suitcase and we spent yesterday afternoon making a feast for dinner. These are really incredible and I am so happy to know how to make them now and very happy to have this blog so that I have some photos to go with these instructions. Swee Peck got this recipe from her Thai friends, Pat and Cherry. Give them a try - they are incredible!

Pat and Cherry's Fresh Spring Rolls

Fresh Spring Roll Ingredients
  • Spring roll skin (made from rice - Vietnamese or Thai)
  • Boiled chicken and/or prawns, torn into small shreds and marinated with soy sauce (optional: salt, sugar and white pepper)
  • Slivered strips of lettuce and carrots, chopped green onions, cilantro, preserved cabbage, bean sprouts, and thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves (optional: chili and garlic - omit garlic if dipping sauce has a lot of garlic). Any other vegetables can be substituted or added, such as shredded cabbage instead of lettuce. The Vietnamese like to add mint leaves.
  • Rice vermicelli (or any kind of noodles you like), boiled 1 minute in hot water with salt (or follow package directions) and then rinsed in cold and rained. Cut to make shorter.
Instructions: Set one spring roll skin into warm water for 2 minutes, flatten as it starts to roll. Place skin on a plate and then add all ingredients, placing about 6-7 slices of lime leaves along the top off all the ingredients. Roll it up like a burrito and place the prawns along the roll at the end, so they show through. May roll it again with another skin.

{lime leaves on a wet paper towel during the building process}

Dipping Sauce Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon corn starch dissolved in water
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2-1 clove chopped garlic, green onions, cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon preserved cabbage
  • 2-3 teaspoons crushed, roasted peanuts
  • Chili (optional)
Instructions: Boil water, sugar, vinegar, salt, corn starch and soy sauce for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chopped ingredients to sauce.  This sauce is enough for about 8 rolls. When we made it, we multiplied it 4 times.
I'm sure they might go quicker for you, as we had these two little "helpers" under foot!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chicken with Mushroom Dressing

I needed to spruce up my roast chicken of the week and this recipe did the job. We love mushrooms and always have some sourdough bread around that makes a quick dressing.  My only modification with the recipe is to roast it at 350 for two hours, instead of at 450 for one hour.  I think the chicken comes out much moister with slow roasting. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chili & Cornbread

Weekends are a great time for chili and cornbread.  My all time favorite recipe for chili is from The New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated. I've been looking for a good cornbread recipe to accompany the chili. I found a good one called Super Moist Cornbread and have modified it quite a bit to increase the nutrient density of the bread. The result is a cornbread that we all love, especially with honey on top!

Whole Grain Cornbread
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
4 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup corn kernels (I use frozen)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups whole milk yogurt, kefir or buttermilk
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Put coconut oil in a cast iron skillet and put in oven to melt.
  • Put butter in a glass measuring cup and place in oven to melt.
  • In a blender or chopper, coarsely blend the corn kernels with 1/2 cup of yogurt.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Whisk the eggs with honey. Stir in the dry ingredients, melted butter, yogurt, olive oil, and coarsely puréed corn kernels. Stir until just smooth and wet. 
  • Pull out the skillet and swirl the coconut oil to coat the sides.  Pour in batter.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes at 400°F, then lower the heat to 350°F for another 20 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, rotate the skillet and cook for 10-15 more minutes.
Note: I find that I have a bit too much batter with this, so I fill the skillet almost to the top and then pour the rest into a regular bread pan. That cooks much faster than the skillet, so if you are in a hurry (read: the family is impatiently hungry) you can start off with this smaller bread first while the skillet bread finishes cooking.

Friday, March 18, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. - AS

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saint Patrick

{Hill of Slane}
In 433 on the Holy Saturday, the pagan High King of Tara, Laeghaire, was to light a fire when all others were extinguished to show that he only would provide for his people.  On this night, Saint Patrick is said to have lit a paschal fire on the hill of Slane as a challenge.  The druids warned that these flames must be put out immediately or they would symbolize the movement of Christ across the land.

Monasterboice in County Louth, Ireland was founded in the 5th century by Saint Buithe, a disciple of Saint Patrick. This lovely place is now full of 10th century high crosses.
{Gallarus Oratory}
The legacy of Saint Patrick continued through the centuries in Ireland. Gallarus Oratory is a dry stone early Christian church on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. It was built between the 6th and 9th centuries using dry-stone corbelling techniques that were first developed by Neolithic tomb-makers.
{March 2000}

De Waal, E. (1997). 
New York, NY: Doubleday.
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