Monday, January 31, 2011

January

The days are short,
   The sun a spark
Hung thin between
   The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
   Track the floor,
And parkas pile up
   Near the door.

The river is
   A frozen place
Held still beneath
   The trees' black lace.

The sky is low.
   The wind is gray.
The radiator
   Purrs all day.

-John Updike, 1932-2009

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Toddler time

Pieter got this cool alligator for his birthday. He didn't really get the idea of pulling it along behind himself.  Well, two months later he is a pro! This weekend our little boy became a true toddler!

Friday, January 28, 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, January 27, 2011

Hats

Future doctor? P loves to put things on his head, whether it is a hat, headphones or a stethoscope. This is just after enjoying some whipped cream from mama's hot chocolate. He will work on putting on and taking off hats for 15 minutes or more. And is so happy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Homemade yogurt

When our milk arrives on Tuesday, I make yogurt for the week. Pieter has yogurt and banana for breakfast most mornings.  I had never made yogurt before last fall and am amazed at how easy it is.  My friend Shasta requested a little bit more details on this process, so here is my method. There are lots of posts on the web from other folks, so if this doesn't work for you, just search around for the best method for yourself.

This process for making yogurt can be used with the Bulgarian or Greek varieties of yogurt. The yogurt you would buy at the grocery store is almost always Bulgarian.  I prefer the thicker Greek variety which I purchased from Cultures for Health. They also have great directions that are available to anyone on their website. One of the best tips I got from them was to culture in a non-reactive container, like a canning jar. They also only use wooden utensils, but I still just use a normal spoon.

Step 1: Heat up your milk to 160 degrees.
Step 2: Cool the milk to 110 degrees. This can be done in the same pan or you can pour it into the containers you will incubate the milk in. I prefer the latter method as it cools faster.
Step 3: Pour out most the milk from a container into another jar. Add 1 tablespoon of starter yogurt per 1 cup of milk. (You can use any plain yogurt as a starter if it has live cultures in the ingredients. Avoid additives in the yogurt, like sweeteners.) Stir well. Add the rest of the milk up to one inch from the top. Stir well.
Step 4: Cover yogurt and incubate the yogurt at 110 degrees for 5-7 hours.  This can be dones in a variety of ways: a warm oven, in a covered slow cooker or pot with water at 110 degrees, or even a cooler.  I use the slow cooker method and put a towel over the whole thing to keep the heat in.  Every couple hours I turn it on for 5-8 minutes to raise the temperature back up to 110. I set a timer when I turn it on (I learned this after forgetting it on and killing all the bacteria).  The yogurt is done when you tip the jar and the yogurt moves away from the jar in a single mass.
Step 5: Allow the yogurt to cool on the counter for 2 hours.
Step 6: Refrigerate for six hours to stop the culturing process.

Enjoy it, but don't eat it all! Save some for your starter to make your next batch of yogurt. You can now add any sweeteners or flavors to the yogurt you will eat. Our favorite is homemade vanilla.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chaos

Doesn't this look like the sweetest, happiest boy?  I am trying to remember that today. We brought the kitties out of quarantine this morning. They are now experiencing full-on Pieter. And hissing Simba. Not a pretty, warm world for them.  So far I have had to disengage tail pulling more times than I can count. Hmmm... what were we thinking?!!


Simba has decided to go to sleep with the hope that the little ones will be gone when he wakes up!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The quest for the perfect temperature



{100% Whole Wheat Bread, KAF}

Homemade bread and yogurt is becoming a staple in our home. Staying home with Pieter has allowed me to renew some of my hobbies and learn some others. It has been fun learn how to work with yeast and bacteria to beneficial results. I say fun with mixed feelings, for the results in the beginning sure were not exactly what I had in mind. The hardest thing in making bread and yogurt is finding just the right temperature.

I tried the oven several times for incubating yogurt, but it just didn't work. I finally figured out, with a little online research, that using a slow cooker with hot water works really well.  I put in water at about 110 degrees, turn on the pot for 5 minutes, turn it off and then cover it up with a towel. I check it every couple hours and turn the pot on for a few minutes to bring the water temperature back up to 110.  So, now, even though we left Trader Joe's behind in our move from Cambridge, we are enjoying Greek Yogurt again!  I found the culture at Cultures for Health.  I also have been making the Viili Yogurt, originating from Finland, but that one has been giving me a lot more trouble. It has to be incubated at 70-77 degrees, just a bit warmer than (our) room temperature in the winter.  I was telling this to Ben on Friday night and he said, "Well, have you tried the furnace?" Amazing!  It works perfectly!  Not only for Viili yogurt, but also rising - 80 degrees directly on the furnace and 75 with a bit of cardboard in between. 

Friday, January 21, 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, January 20, 2011

A snowy evening

We walked to the library yesterday in the afternoon and enjoyed the sunset amidst the snow covered trees in town.  As I was making my way down the aisle towards the sewing section, I glanced over and saw Bartlett's Poems for Occasions. It almost seemed to jump off the shelf at me. I am not a poetry buff at all. But this seemed kind of fun to look up poems for certain times of life, like seasons, celebrations and cycles of life.  Last night I started skimming through the poems about winter and saw this one by Robert Frost. It reminds me of my childhood in New England with horses, snow, woods and farmhouses. This is a favorite of my mom's that she had framed on the wall for many years.

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though; 
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep 
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost, 1874-1963

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The mountains in winter

Pieter and I got out for a walk in the hills yesterday. The rusty colored soil that shapes the mountains has disappeared under the snow. The Ponderosa pine trees stand stoically even with a heavy snow coating their branches. It is amazing how much seasons change a landscape. Here is the same place in the summer.

I've been busy knitting a sweater for Ben. I have been wanting to do this pattern, Cobblestone, by NYC designer Jared Flood, for quite a while.  I knit the body up to the arms before admitting that it was just too small and I needed to go up a size. So, I ripped out sixteen inches of knitting, but it now is just right. Ben always reminds me when I rip anything out that this is a hobby and I get twice the enjoyment out of the yarn. Hmm... I guess so? I really started the sweater because I fell in love with Pebble, a child's vest paying homage to Cobblestone.  The yarn that seemed to be best for Pebble was some handspun llama that Ben brought back from Argentina, but I couldn't in good conscience break up the seven skeins when that is enough for a sweater. So, I started Cobblestone with it and am hoping that when it is done I will have enough for a vest, as well.  It is a mystery as I have no idea how many yards these skeins contain. Maybe one day I'll have a yarn meter. Oh, gagets are fun!  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Week of Chicken, Part IV


When we lived in Madison, Wisconsin, we participated in a really great CSA, JenEhr Family Farm. Each week when I would pick up my box of fresh vegetables, I would find a newsletter with recipes in it. One of my favorites that I still make is Red Kuri Soup with Apple Cider. Since I don't always have a Red Kuri squash, I just substitute it with any other common winter squash, like butternut. Here is my modified recipe that uses up the last of my chicken broth this week.

Winter Squash Soup with Apple Cider
1 teaspoon thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
3 pounds squash, peeled and chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped*
2 cups apple cider*
4-6 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

In a large pot over medium heat, cook vegetables in butter until soft. Add squash and apples. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender. Add cider and chicken broth - enough to cover veggies by one inch. Add thyme and cinnamon stick. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick. In batches, puree in blender until smooth. Add cream, salt and pepper. Garnish with creme fraiche.

*If you don't have apples or cider, just put in 2 cups of applesauce.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Week of Chicken, Part III



It is another snowy, wintery day here. Last night I decided to follow up the Chicken Soup with Enchiladas. Martha has a great recipe for this: Chicken Enchiladas with Creamy Green Sauce. I've altered this recipe quite a bit into my own favorite enchiladas. Here is my modified recipe.

Chicken Enchiladas
Ingredients: salsa verde, plain yogurt, onion, garlic, spinach, black beans, roast chicken leftovers, whole wheat tortillas, cheddar or monterey jack cheese.

1. Whisk together one jar of salsa verde with one cup of yogurt. Set aside.
2. Saute one onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Then add chopped spinach (fresh or 1 frozen bag/brick) and 2 cups of black beans. If you cook your own beans, add the liquid. If you use canned beans, drain and rinse the beans. (Why? The lining in cans have BPA that releases into food. You can remove some of this with rinsing. Here is an interesting post on this.) Then add some chopped up chicken that is leftover from the roast. I use about 1.5 cups. That is my basic filling. Sometimes I also add a bunch of sliced mushrooms and saute those before adding the spinach and beans. Saute the mixture until sizzling.
3.  Now you are ready to build. Grab a 9x13 pan and a 9x9 pan.  Pour some of the salsa mixture in both pans to coat the bottom.  Dip a whole wheat tortilla in the salsa mixture, coat both sides, put in pan, add filling, roll up and repeat. Optional: add some shredded cheese with the filling. I usually put in about 6-7 in the large pan and 4 the small pan. 
4. Pour the leftover salsa on the top of all the filled tortillas and top with shredded cheese (cheddar or monterey jack).
5. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes until bubbly and toasted.

Have your meal with the larger pan and put the smaller one away for a second meal in the next few days.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Week of Chicken, Part II

Outside there is a bit of snow coming down as I make chicken soup for lunch today.  I often make this the day after roasting a chicken with the chicken broth that has been simmering all night.  I use this basic recipe here.

Chicken Soup
1. Saute one onion, 5 celery sticks and 5 carrots in some butter and olive oil.
2. When veggies are soft, add 1 cup of brown rice. I prefer short grained for a firmer texture. Hulled barley is also another good option. Saute a few minutes till rice is translucent.
3.  Add 1.5 cups of left over roast chicken in chunks. I usually use the small dark bits that I picked off the bones and save the breast meat for another dish.
4. Add the 5-6 cups of the broth you just made, 1 teaspoon of thyme and freshly ground pepper. Simmer for about an hour till the rice is done.
5. Other options instead of rice: If I have leftover potatoes from the roast the night before I cut those up into small chunks and add them at the end to warm up.  Whole grain dumplings are also great.

When the soup is ready, I ladle out some, with just a bit of broth, into the blender for Pieter. What yummy baby food!  I do make sure that the broth I take for this is skimmed from the top to have a high fat content for all that brain development that is going on. After the baby food is pulled I add freshly ground sea salt for everyone else and serve!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Week of Chicken


When we moved to South Dakota, I had a whole new place to learn about and find good food resources.  I was floundering, wondering where I would find raw milk and pastured meats, when my friend Jean suggested that I look up the Weston A. Price Foundation and see if there was a local chapter in my town. This turned out to be a great suggestion.  Thru my local chapter I was able to find a wealth of resources, from a local family that sells pastured raw milk, butter and eggs to beef and chicken from other farmers and ranchers in the area.  The Plate River Hutterite Colony sells chickens in our town about every six weeks.  I buy a case of sixteen chickens every four months for an affordable $6/chicken.  That gives me a chicken once a week.  Surprisingly, I've figured out how to make quite a few meals out of this six dollar chicken.

I stick to a basic roast chicken recipe, but cook it for longer than the norm.  After seasoning it with some herbs (most often thyme), salt, and pepper, on the skin, under the skin and in the cavity, I tie up the legs and put it in my roasting pan breast side up and add about one cup of water to the pan. I roast it for one hour at 350 degrees, then pull it out, add whatever vegetables I want to the pan, flip the chicken and roast it for another hour at 400 degrees. The result is a very moist chicken with some yummy side veg. The whole flipping/second hour business I learned from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions cookbook. The biggest reason I like that is it then is super easy to carve off the legs from the back, which we have for our first meal.

Left over is the breast meat and wings and all the rest of the meat. I pick the bones clean and then store this for the next few meals. Now, I make chicken broth for a few soups during the week. All the bones and skin from the chicken go into the crock pot, along with the juice from the pan.  
Here is the nice trick I've learned. Instead of chopping up veggies that I'd use to eat for the broth, I add vegetable scraps that I've saved throughout the week. I leave a bag in the freezer and whenever I peel carrots or cut up onions, celery, leeks, etc., I throw the peels, tips and scraps into the bag. This leaves me with veggies that are ready to throw into the crock pot at anytime.
I leave the chicken and veggies simmering for 24 hours. Then I strain the bones and veggies from it, which I put into the compost. Many people say not to put meat into the compost, but these bones are pretty clean and also very soft at this point. I think it is best to allow this to turn back into soil, rather than toxic waste in a landfill. I then cool the broth and skim the fat off the top. Now it is ready to freeze in ice cube trays for later use and/or soup for the next meal. 

Friday, January 14, 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, January 13, 2011

Little, fluffy, purr balls!

For the past six months we have been frequenting the animals shelters in our area looking for just the right new cat to join us. We saw lots, but never found the right one.  Tuesday we got a call that two long-haired kittens, 3 months old, were at the shelter, so I bundled Pieter into the car, picked up Papa from work and headed over for a look see. They were pretty cute, so we decided to go home and think about it. As we were getting ready to leave the shelter, a young woman arrived with two older kittens, about 9 months old.  Well, these little cutie-patooties didn't even make it to their cages.  We knew they were the ones!

These two boys are very sweet and purr a ton.  They have already destroyed several feather toys with all their energy and willingly take tough love from Pieter.  Simba is unaware of this world change for him, as they are in quarantine for two weeks while they get healthy from several parasites.

We have not decided on names yet for these boys. Any ideas? Please leave a comment!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ending the Day

Another favorite of mine from Michael Card's Sleep Sound in Jesus is A Song For The Night. I love the wonder of the world in it and remember the prayers of my childhood when I would say good night to everything I could think of (any way to prolong bedtime?)

A Song For The Night
Like a warm woolen blanket
The dark wraps around
As we cuddle together
And hear all the sounds
Of the night as it's falling
And coming to be
Now look with your ears
Not your eyes, and you'll see

Good night to the trees
So majestic and strong
Good night to the birds
With their wonderful songs
Good night to the planets
That wander above
Good night to a universe
Alive with Your love

The sounds of the night
Are the notes of a song
So secret and sacred
So beautifully strong
In the air there's an echo
A whisper and a prayer
And though He's not seen
Still the Singer is there

So good night to creation
To the bright shining stars
Good night to the moon
Faithful witness you are
Good night to the world
As it hurtles through space
Good night to the wonder
In your shining face

With all that is waiting
The sights and the sounds
Your wondrous world
Like a merry-go-round
Is it any wonder
It's so hard to sleep
While outside You're playing
Your own hide-and-seek

{Photo: On December 20, there was a beautiful halo around the moon. So hard to capture.}

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I solemnly swear

I solemnly swear to never smile, laugh at or enjoy another little one's haircut again.  I just didn't want to cut his hair, for I knew that he would look forever different.  Well, after his Oma "encouraging" me to cut it, I finally caved. His bangs just kept hanging in his eyes.  It is not easy to cut a wiggle boy's hair!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Starting the Day


I have been enjoying listening to Michael Card's Sleep Sound in Jesus, Platinum edition.  It has been a while since I've listened to Card's music and I am reminded how great his songwriting is.  When I remember, Pieter and I start out our day listening to "Morning Prayer."

Morning Prayer
We wanted to give you this morning, Lord
We wanted to give You this day
Thanks for the Son
And His light in our hearts
There are so many things we need to say

As we look to a new day to spend with you
It's exciting to see what it means
That You would choose us
And use us
And call us Your own
That You love us and give us a new song to sing

In order to give You the whole of the day
We must give You this first special part
The sun as it rises reminds us You
A day without You's
Like a day in the dark

We wanted to give You this morning Lord
We wanted to give You this day

{Photo: Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, 2005}

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Run! Run!


Run! Run!
Fast as you can!
You can't catch me!
I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Pieter received a special package from his friends Gen, Steph, Melinda and Courtney. The Gingerbread Man came with a recipe on the back cover, so I decided to make up a few.  They are yummy cookies, very dark with molasses and spices.  The tale is a bit sad with the fox eating up the Gingerbread Man in one bite!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Traveling Cat


Our Wisconsin kitty, Simba, has become a well traveled cat.  He has lived in Wisconsin, Virginia, Massachusetts, and South Dakota.  Packing is a fun past time for him as he loves boxes. I've always loved this picture of him snuggling in next to James Herrot's Cat Stories.  He has been in lots of moving trucks and just likes to settle down in his basket for the ride.



He went to Louisiana with us over Christmas and added quite a few more states to his roster from this 30 hour drive.

I think we might need to go on a trip out to California so he can be a coast-to-coast kitty!

Friday, January 7, 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
Tissue, anyone? Along with a fun trip to Baton Rouge, we got the flu and are still trying to recover.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy birthday, Dad! What a great day to celebrate and remember all the love that Grandma gave you at your birth. And all the love you've given me! I love you!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Postcards from Louisiana: New Orleans

We got just a taste of New Orleans on New Years Eve. The paddle boats moved up and down the Mississippi, full of tourists. The streets were busy with anticipation of the evening fun yet to be had.  I just loved the gardens on the balconies. 
And of course, business doesn't slow down on the Mississippi, no matter what the day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Postcards from Louisiana: Plantations

No visit to the south is complete without a visit to a plantation. We saw the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens which sits in the shadow of the Mississippi River and levee.  What an amazing river this is, which we have sadly mucked up with industry.  

Surrounding the old plantation house were now gardens, probably vastly different from the past when sugar cane was grown for acres around the house. Here is a map of what the plantation used to look like.







I just loved this silver plated lobster platter that was inside the house. I've never seen something like this before and for a New England girl, how cool! But, the best thing was not man made, but bee made.  I have never seen honeycomb hanging out of a tree like this.  
A great place for a family shot!
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