Saturday, May 15, 2010

Just Because

I'm enjoying a visit with my daughter, I thought I'd post a pic of us together. Please keep in mind it's the end of a long day in which we got 8,000 parts done as well as some cooking and cleaning. We're tired but happy to be together.

And Steph visiting means I also get to spend time with my grand-dogger. Laela is the smartest dog! And a little obsessive. She knows grandma will always throw the toy eventually.

Spring in My Kitchen

I was the recipient last week of two beautiful bouquets of flowers. One from Kent, just to say "I love you" and one from Stephanie for Mother's Day. I have been thoroughly enjoying their color and liveliness. Here is a shot of the flowers from Kent

I especially like the (I believe they are) Chrysanthemums. I never cease to be amazed by the innumerable petals and what a display they put on.

And her is the bouquet from Steph.

When I first recieved it the stand out flowers were the Gerbera Daisies and small purple flowers that I was not familiar with. However, when the lillies began blooming, all that changed. Look at these beauties.

What could I possibly say to enhance the gracefulness of this bloom?

The Way I See It

Sure, I could be bumming about the fact that it's still winter here. And part of me is. But then there are the cool things (no pun intended) that are particular to spring snow. Here we see what appears to be our basic gently falling snow.

But this isn't the kind of snow that falls through frigid air and lands on surfaces as cold as death. This is a wet, "I could be rain if I wanted to" kind of snow that lands on surfaces that are already shaking off the deep winter chill. So it all acts differently. Like the snow sliding off the roof of the foundry and creating this curl that makes me thing of an ocean wave.

And look at the little icicles hanging on to that wave. Flip it over and they could be splashes of warm sea water.

I thought about how heavy the snow was on the trees and then realized that if I was a little bird, that would be good shelter from this rapidly falling, moist snow. Is this what they see?

I was looking for some color in this seemingly grey, black and white world. The woodpile stood out with it's warm, almost golden browns showing under the blanket of snow.

And I was really taken by the ice that formed on these ropes. Kent, during our last warm spell, had worked on the chimney lining and these safety ropes are still in place so that he can go back up and finish some things when it is warm again. The rope is tied to the decking on the East side of the house, goes up over the roof and all the way back down to the decking on the West side. Here the water has used the rope as a channel and frozen it solid. Or so it seems. As I was looking I could see the water running down inside the ice sheaf, still following the rope to it's lowest point. I thought it was so cool to see this ice tube running from the deck to the roof.

And this morning I saw this striking view of the mountains. I got the impression they were shaking off the shrouding of the wet clouds, ready to once again be drenched in sunshine.

At least, that's the way I see it.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign...

Maybe you've noticed the labels on items in my kitchen. Let me share with you one of the most helpful things I have learned to do...

I label almost everything! Being a perfectionist sort, that could be a daunting task. But I'm also practical and it needs to be fast, easy, and effective. Something I can do on the fly without interrupting my work.

Here is my solution to mystery food. How old is that whey? I know it's supposed to last for a month... When did I skim that cream?... What day did I put that kombucha aside to brew? No more guessing as long as my two best kitchen friends are there to help me. Meet Sharpie and the Freezer Tape. I prefer the Sharpie with two point sizes in one. That way I can clearly mark, for example, KOMBUCHA boldly and then the finer point allows me to ramble on about the day I put it aside and the date I believe it should be ready. And freezer tape because it sticks great but never leaves a residue when I remove it.

I also like to mark any leftovers with the date. And so that Kent can more easily find his lunch items at 2:00 am, I clearly mark them and put them on the front of the fridge shelf so he doesn't miss something important.

There you have it - One of my best kitchen tips!

Update on Cooking Once and for All (Week)

Cooking Once for All (Week) is working very well for us. However, I learned an important lesson this past Monday - I can't expect to do 5-6 loads of laundry, clean the house AND cook for the week all in one day. Turns out there just aren't enough hours. I am so grateful that Kent (after getting up at 1:00 am and working from 3-3) came to my rescue upon his arrival home. He washed his hands, rolled up his sleeves, and helped me finish the last couple dishes. The encouragement alone was a gift and we had a good time in the bargain.

I didn't get the yogurt done until yesterday. There still isn't any homemade sauerkraut yet. And I opted to use the cream for ice cream rather than butter. Otherwise, the day was a success. Turns out my canner holds 10 pints, not 9 as I had previously thought. You have to put them in just so but they will fit. And so I got 10 pints of homemade chicken stock canned up.

And just the perfect amount left to make the gravy for a couple of chicken pot pies filled with carrots, celery, sweet peas and sweet corn.

I decided we didn't need two loaves of bread so I did a loaf and a pizza crust. We ended up having it for dinner sauced with the homemade "ketchup" and topped with extra browned ground beef, cheddar cheese, onions and olives. It was quite tasty. I'm getting inspired to experiment more and more with our pizza toppings. Like the spiced chicken and veggie pizza a few weeks ago.

And I made up a tray of spicy meatballs that I topped with more of the "ketchup". They hit the spot.

Now here it is Saturday night and I'm working on next week's menu. I was talking to my father today and he arrives next Tuesday. I'll be revisiting the chicken pot pie because he thought it sounded particularly good. I'll roast a beautiful organic bird on Monday and hopefully also get a chicken pot pie and some curried chicken out of the deal for later in the week. The rest is still pretty sketchy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

to all you mom's out there. I know that I particularly missed my mom today. I miss her often and so today it's especially sad to me that I can't tell her thanks. (Although I'm sure she's having a grand time and doesn't really miss our little holiday.)

I had a very special afternoon. Stephanie met me down the hill and took me out. We had a really nice time. We shoe shopped at the mall. I didn't find anything but it's so much more fun looking when you have company. Then she took me for a smoothie since neither of us had eaten lunch. Then to the Golden Quilt Museum where we browsed an amazing collection. Of all the beauties there, the one that is really going to stick with me is called "10,000 Triangles". It really is. And two triangles go together to create a square that is perhaps 1.25 inches across. And the quilt was huge. Who made this? Grace. She made it in the late 1800's when she was EIGHT. That's 8. And it was, of course, all stitched by hand. I was so impressed. I'd share a pic but we weren't allowed to take any. After the museum Steph treated me to dinner at Ali Baba's Grill. The food was fabulous! We couldn't decide between all the great sounding things so we ended up getting two samplers, the Vegetable Lovers and the Meat Lovers. Baba Ganoush, Falafel, Tabbouleh, Hummus, Spicy Lamb, Grilled Beef and Chicken skewers, fresh Pita Bread, delicious salads. We were stuffed and it looked like we'd only picked at the plates. Steph had a take-out box just packed when we left. I'm glad since she's not feeling well and she shouldn't have to cook for days.

So it was a wonderful afternoon and I can't believe that my baby is all grown up, planning our day, printing up the directions, driving me around and picking up the tab, too. Sigh. I didn't need to do anything. But I still felt needed, 'cause she'll always need my lovin and hugs.

I love you, Steph! I'm so glad I got to be YOUR mom.

I've Got Two Left Feet

I'm gearing up for tomorrow's Cooking Once and For All (Week) again. I've decided to do this on Mondays so that I have the weekend to get what I need at farmer's markets or down in Denver if need be. Last night I put together "ketchup". This is from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook and it was really yummy. It needs to ferment for a couple days so I put it in the cupboard with the kombucha for now. It is composed of tomato paste, maple syrup, sea salt, cayenne pepper, fish sauce, whey and mashed garlic. I'm excited to see what it's like after it has rested for a couple days.

I'm also preparing stock for the chicken pot pies I'll be making. I'll share a couple secrets with you for making exceptional stock. Again, I learned these from Nourishing Traditions...

One, add some cider vinegar to the pot and it will help to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium out of the bones and into the broth.

Two, you want to get the beneficial effects of gelatin in your broth, so you need to add parts that will impart this to your stock. Like feet. See, I told you I had two left feet. Or two right feet. Now I'm not so sure... Anyway, gelatin is an aid to digestion but it also allows the body to more fully utilize the proteins you eat. These feet are real beauties, I ended up adding four to my pot since I'm using a little over four pounds of necks and backs.

Three, you want to simmer it for a long time. We're talking simmer here, such as the lowest setting on your stovetop. And 24 hours is not too long. Or you can put it in your crockpot (if you make smaller batches than me) and let it cook away. I've never had such amazing flavor from such humble ingredients.

I hope to have some left over to presssure can in pints for other meals.

The chicken is from Wisdom's Natural Poultry here in Colorado and I purchased it at the Boulder Farmer's Market. Wow, what an experience - over 300 vendors, thousands of people shopping. Kathy was going up yesterday and asked me if I wanted to come along. I'm glad I did. Even though it's early in the season, there was no shortage of beautiful things to inspire and tempt. Bison, grass fed beef, organic eggs, chicken, cheeses, wines, meade, greens like spinach, lovage, watercress, and pea sprouts, seedlings, flowering baskets, jams, sauces, teas, herbs, tomatoes and cukes grown indoors, pestos, onions, dried beans, a food court full of vendors cooking up their local specialties, and I didn't even get to the crafts and fine arts tents. I was too pooped. I'm excited to find a source for organically raised chicken that will sell me livers, backs, and feet as well as whole chickens.

And now I should probably go to bed since tomorrow's line-up is a doozy:

Finish the chicken stock
Prep salad greens
Mill sprouted grain and bake bread
Two chicken potpies
Sweet and sour pork with brown rice
Spicy Meatballs with Egg Noodles
No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Fruit and Nut Bars
A breakfast casserole (TBD)

And in my spare time I'll do laundry. The rest of our week will be committed to making parts as Kent Smith Studios for a large order we've received. It will be so nice not to worry about what to eat after a long day in the shop!

Friday, May 7, 2010

My little microbrewery

I don't think there's any alchohol content, though. I'm brewing Kombucha. You may have noticed pics previously where I was growing my SCOBY (Simbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) from a purchased bottle of Kombucha. And then I put my first batch to ferment about 9 days ago. Today I decanted the brew and I think it turned out really well.

In typical Kristine fashion, I didn't think to start taking pics for you until I'd decanted. But here's the golden Kombucha from my last brew.

And then I began another batch. Candy had updated her method and it certainly speeds things up. Previously I added my sugar and tea to three quarts of boiling water. This time I just used one. And when it was ready, I added cool water to make three quarts, meaning that it didn't take hours to get cool enough to add my scoby back in. So here's my gallon jar with tea a-brewing.

I am able to add my water straight from the tap because we have such amazing well water. If you have "city" water that is treated or chlorinated, you must use filtered water for the brew.

The directions said that each time I brew another scoby would form on top of the one I had. It sure did. But since the original scoby was created in a quart jar and then the subsequent addition in a gallon jar, it kind of turned out looking like a fried egg shape.

And I just slip the scoby into the new brew and put it in the cupboard to rest for a week or so. I'm very excited to find that this process is really quite simple and resulting kombucha product is really good. Much better results than my sourdough bread fiascos. A real confidence builder.

If you want a baby scoby to brew some for yourself, let me know. (No, I can't send one to India, Val.) And here's that link again to Candy's directions: Brewing Kombucha from Keeping the Home

Color my world

If, by some chance, you noted (with relief, perhaps), that I hadn't posted in several days, you may wonder what I've been up to. Well, of course there's the cooking. And Sunday. And painting. We've been working our way through the house and this week we tackled the most difficult space of all - The Stairwell. Yes, it deserves capitalization.

Kent also replaced some trim here and there that we'd pulled up as we went.

And I appear to be having fun. Actually, we did. We always enjoy working together. It's such a blessing. This was the last of the hallway. Maybe that's why I appear so happy.

This was the bear of it. There's the downstairs hallway. Not bad. Knocked that off first. Then there's this stairwell, that actually rises higher than a typical second floor ceiling because the ceiling is sloped in the center to the peak. Kent did the scary and most difficult parts. We used a ladder some and then he went to it with a very long extension handle for a paint roller. I so appreciate what a hard worker he is.

And I think we are both really pleased with the results. The hall was in need of a painting due to years of wear but also we've warmed it up with a butter yellow called Cottonseed, instead of the harsh white it was. There's only one room now that hasn't been painted. Our office. I'm entertaining thoughts of painting it in Liquid Blue by Behr. My niece used it and I love the look. But maybe not for a couple weeks...

BFF (Best Friends Forever)

Ok, by posting these incriminating photos, I'm also exposing myself. I have a teddy bear. His name is Benjamin. I use him like a pillow. Honest. But he is still a stuffed bear. I won't deny it.

I'm not his only bed buddy, though. We have long known that our cat, Cass, has a thing for Benjamin and I was recently able to get it on "film". Here is the evidence that a cat and a bear can be best buds...

I admit that Benjamin seems quite content with this friendship as well

Socks, however, seemed shocked and said that he would never sleep with a teddy bear (because Cass is too jealous and won't let him).

Bad Hare Day and Good Times

So all that cooking was Saturday. On Sunday I had arranged to sell my angora rabbits to a woman who spins. I was sad to see them go but, to be honest, I wasn't utilizing them as I had hoped I would. I guess I like the idea of getting my fiber from my own rabbits more than I like the actual process. I just never seemed to find time and then when I had the fiber, I'm much too novice a spinner to know what to do with it. I tried carding it in with another fiber but my skill level at carding is also very amateur. So Kent and I discussed getting rid of rabbits to make room for storage and work toward our goal of selling the house.

I feel really good about the home I found for them. Peg is a spinner who already raises cashmere goats and llamas. She even brought them little treats she'd made for their ride to their new home. Peter was totally into that and started munching on his right away, much to her delight. I asked enough to keep snake owners from wishing to purchase them but little enough to make them affordable to a good home.

Here's a picture of Peter - so named because I had determined to name the bucks with NT names and he looked like he was out of a Beatrix Potter book...

And Matt (short for Matthew and aptly name for his ability to get matted in hours, rather than days). But he had the sweetest face and of all the rabbits, he was the most curious and friendly.

And lest I forget, though I don't have a picture of him handy, was Tommy (Thomas), a black angora with shiny black ears, feet and face and a coat of silvery/blue. He was feisty, though. I raised him from a baby and he still acted more wild than the rest. But he was a beauty.

So the morning was bittersweet, saying goodbye and knowing they would be well cared for. Then I went on my way to church with enough time to spare for a Starbucks and strawberry danish. A treat!

Church was great, even though our pastors were out of town. Our new format includes spending time talking in small groups and praying together after the message and before communion. I think that we are all really touched and edified by this sharing within the body. And afterwards, just when you wish the sharing didn't have to end, we had all been invited to Steve and Liz' house for lunch and continued fellowship. It was a great afternoon. I hope we find ways to spend more like this in the future.

Cooking - Once and for all (week)

I decided to try something new. Kent and I have so many projects and really wish to make the most of the days we have together to work on them. After Kent pointed out how much time I was spending in the kitchen I put on my thinking cap to come up with a solution that would yield healthy foods and make more time for our projects. I determined that with the right meals, I could prepare them ahead of time and we could eat all week for one day of my cooking time. I was even able to work in some special treats, like pickles, pate and pesto. The three P's.

Here we have some of the raw materials for the project: Counterclockwise, starting in the top left we have Korean cucumbers, red snapper, two kinds of kale, leeks, eggs (see the green ones!?), fresh basil, fresh mint, chicken livers, fresh dill, and right in the center, baby bok choy.

Kent and I love pate, so I cooked those chicken livers up with lots of fresh cultured butter, added white wine, brandy, cumin, salt, pepper, and paprika and,

Voila!, Hawaiian Pate.

And I pulled the pine nuts out of the freezer and made that basil into a yummy pesto. We like to stir a big glob into our pizza sauce for a really gourmet pizza treat (like the one we had last night with loads of crimini mushrooms, sweet onion, black olives and unprocessed pepperoni).

I filleted the fresh snapper and cooked the fillets in a skillet and put everything else, head and all, into a stock pot with onions, celery, white wine and herbs. Later I flaked up the fillets, opened a can of crab meat, strained my stock and made a spicy Creole fish soup to eat as an appetizer throughout the week. Really tasty!

I also used our grass fed beef to make a Shepherd's Pie and Spanish Rice and while all that was going on, I simmered up some Ham and Bean Soup. I did a fermented dill pickle recipe that turned out very nicely and made some fruit and nut oatmeal bars to take care of any sweet-tooth cravings. (Oh, and Kent made delicious ice cream with the raw milk. Chocolate with almonds and mint with chocolate chips. I'm so spoiled.)

All week all we've had to do was decide what we wanted and warm it up. It's worked out so well that I'm planning to do it again for next week.