Saturday, October 31, 2009

werewolf bar mitzvah! spooky, scary

Happy Halloween, possums! Such a beautiful day to dress as a harmful spirit in order to confuse departed souls of ill intent!

My family has a party on Halloween every year (though I don't know what we're going to do next year--we certainly don't want to take stock of food supplies and slaughter animals for winter storage on the Sabbath!) with soup and bread and viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas. This year my parents are in Reno watching my sister's race, and they won't be back until right before the party. With most people (us) that would present a problem, since there wouldn't be time to clean the house before guests arrived, but they are brown-nosers and keep their surroundings neat and tidy. Lame.

I have opted to bring two soups, because my sister-in-law Emily makes a zucchini soup that if I don't watch out John will cast me aside and marry her for this soup alone, and also I had a big box? container? thingie? of mushrooms that needed to be used pronto. Then some bread, and since it is FINALLY cranberry season in the stores I bought two mondo bags of them for making the cranberry scones of myth, legend and song. I know I've linked to them before, but if any of you have not made them yet you should be reported to Human Resources for creating a hostile eating environment. Unless you don't like food that tastes good, which I guess is possible.

But the real meat of my story is the soup. Ha! Emily gave me the zucchini soup recipe, which was great of her, since I can't imagine being able to find and keep a man if I were back in the singles game. "Hi, I'm Layne. I have four unruly and strong-willed children, a pregnant (crossing fingers!) goat, sixteen chickens, an ottoman-sized cat, and a house populated with old-person furniture. Also I'm excessively bossy and opinionated. I'll be wearing the pants, in case you've heard otherwise. Hey! Get back here!" I used sharp cheddar, since that's what we stock, and it may be for that reason that John likes my rendition of the soup, but does not hoover it down. But! Have you made, have you made cream of mushroom soup (to the tune of "Were You There")? Before today I had not, which means it has been a long, lonely time since I'd eaten any, as we are not ordinarily consumers of canned soups. And this soup! Words fail me. It is silky, complex, earthy, but still bright from the chicken broth. Eminently inhalable. Quick and easy as well, and thus bound for a permanent slot on our haphazard family menu.

Shall I share both recipes with you? Do I dare? Yes, I dare.
Emily's Zucchini Soup
Saute until tender:
2 medium zucchini, chopped (green and yellow are pretty together!)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T parsley
1 t dried basil (use more if you've got fresh)
1/3 C butter

Stir in:
1/3 C flour
salt and pepper to taste, about 1 t salt and 1/4 t pepper

Stir in:
3 C chicken broth
1 t lemon juice

Let boil for 2 minutes, then add:
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 large can(12 oz.?) of evaporated milk (I'm sure that an equal amount of half-and-half or cream would also be fine, but I had some evaportated milk that needed using)
2 C of frozen corn

Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Just before serving add:
1/4 C parmesan
2 C shredded cheddar

Cream of Mushroom Soup
adapted from How to Cook Everything (if you stay true to his recipe it will probably be even better, but I did what I could with what was on hand)
Saute until browned:
1 1/2 lbs. cremini mushrooms, tops sliced and stems chopped
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
salt and pepper

Add and saute until softened:
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Stir in:
2/3 C flour

Let the flour cook for a minute, then stir in:
4 C chicken broth
1 C beef broth (I'm sure you can use all of one or the other, I just like a variety, and Bittman says you can also use vegetable broth)

Let boil for a minute or two, then stir in:
2 C cream or half-and-half

Warm it through, but do not let it boil.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I am the clown with the tear-away face

I don't know why there is such nostalgia for the Smurfs. It was a pretty stupid cartoon and perpetuated acceptance of patriarchal rule. I do grudgingly admire them for speaking a tonal language, though. I bet it's pretty hard for a non-native speaker to learn Smurf.

I roasted two of the roosters for our dinner last night. Verdict: tough, but juicy and flavorful. The Hulk tried to get away without eating any, but relented and had some breast meat. Captain America declared it the "best chicken ever," which it was not, but he is going through a stage. The more hand he has in acquiring or preparing a food, the better it is. Which is usually true.

English people have the best names for their food. Some British foods I like are:
1. Yorkshire pudding (which we call "pud")
2. rhubarb fool
3. trifle
4. Toad in the Hole
5. Sticky Toffee Pudding

I made Sticky Toffee Pudding for the first time last night, only with raisins instead of dates because I forgot to buy some, so it probably tasted nothing like, but it was still sticky and toffeeish, and you know how Brits are about calling everything "pudding," they're like Louisianans and "chicken," so stop judging! It is delicious and easy. So much better than Tres Leches cake, which manages to be too moist, somehow--I might like it better served warm . . . I should go make some.

I'm very conflicted about my costume. It's so boring! Even with eyeliner sideburns and an eyeliner cookie duster mustache, and the planned use of John's black knit cat burglar hat. But now it's too late to do anything else. I only get one shot a year at this, and I know I'm going to live to regret it. Werewolf! Audrey Two or One! Harley Quinn! The wasted opportunities!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

doubleplus ungood!

Maybe I'm overreacting, because when I hear the word "mandatory" in conjunction with "there is a new law because clearly we have so much time and money and nothing to do with it" I get cranky. But why would San Francisco be encouraging--and legislating--incorrect composting procedures? Perhaps the newspaper wasn't able to go into detail about which food waste is truly banned, but I have read over and over that meat and grease and eggs should never be composted, because it ruins your compost and attracts pests.

What they need to do is give everyone a flock of laying hens. I hardly compost anything anymore, because my chickens are so greedy.

Anyone who knows what's really going on, please educate me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

the longest and grossest post I have ever written

In pausing to reflect over last week's events, it would seem that I've once again violated the terms of my Humane Society endorsement. Dangit!

However, if you believe, as I do, that animal protein is a necessary (although preferably smallish) component of a healthy diet, then it's nice to know that the animal you're eating has been treated well, fed wholesome food it would have ordinarily eaten (none of its own species, for example--although I do let my chickens eat leftover eggs, since they do that anyway), and killed as quickly and painlessly as possible.

But on with the excitement!
Here is the wee little teal that Jason brought us. I think my face sort of looks like a horse when it's feeling wiggy--something about the nose.

Last Monday our neighbor brought us a duck he had killed, because I had mentioned that I would like to roast a duck, just to say I'd done it. But it was small enough that I decided against doing anything but breasting it.
Teals--and perhaps all waterfowl, what do I know?--are very easy to pluck. The breast feathers came out lickety-split.
Doesn't he know that ducks wear shirts, not pants?

Five minutes later, there he/she/it was, all barechested.
Then we singed off the downy fuzz. And we didn't even scald it--The Joy of Cooking recommended against it with a game bird, because it makes the skin tear more easily.
Then I cut down the breastbone and commenced my embarrassing crime against butchery.
Ugh. Look at all that wasted meat. I hate inefficiency.

We fried them up in a pan the next night, along with our Pad Thai, and the children descended upon them and devoured them like starving wolves. And you know how wolves are!

It was more difficult than I thought it would be. He was so tiny and weightless and soft, and he smelled clean and downy, like a pillow.
Clockwise from left: Pad Thai, kimchi, marinated tofu.

Above is the Pad Thai I made from Alton Brown's recipe. It was fairly well-received, even by The Hulk, if you can imagine. I don't know what's gotten into him.
Evidently Skiver doesn't care much for the taste of mouse.

Thursday we came home from buying our milk, and Superman found this on the carpet. It's one of the mice that has been making himself free with our food storage. He has gotten into my giant bag of chocolate chips and I may have said some swear words beginning with D and H when John told me about it.
Saturday was killing day. It has been the killingest week ever at our house! We processed seven chickens--skinning three and plucking four. Thankfully our magic neighbors (as my sister-in-law calls them) are prepared for all chicken-killing emergencies. They brought over their contraption composed of a fifty-five gallon drum topped with a board and two traffic cones.
At first we held the bird over the cone and cut his throat, but before too long we started pulling the head through a hole cut in the end of the cone, slitting the throat and letting the bird bleed out. It worked much better the second way.
It really is an ignoble way to die . . . as opposed, I guess, to the way that animals normally die? Not likely. But at least it's better than flopping around and flinging blood everywhere.
Once the bird has bled out you can begin processing it. These we skinned by slicing a Y-shaped cut into the skin on the breast and down the legs--sort of like an autopsy. Loosen the skin and peel it off the meat, then slice the breastbone off and cut off the thighs and legs.
We skinned the first three, because they're over a year old and are bound to be tough, so there's no point in plucking them for roasting. They'll most likely have to be pressure cooked to be edible.

Then we processed our four big guys. Since they were chicks this spring, I'm hoping there's a chance they'll make halfway decent roasters.
It was a little bit ten pounds of chicken in a five pound pot.

The internets told us to hold each bird in the hot water for 1 1/2-2 minutes, then pluck them. So we did. It was harder keeping them in the water than I thought it would be--they're surprisingly buoyant.
Trying to get every last little hairlike feather off the breast. I'm very detail-oriented.

The plucking was far easier than I anticipated. Sort of time-consuming because they have these tiny little hairlike things that you have to pull out, and of course it was a misty day and we were wet from the scalding pot, so the feathers stuck, and also it was stinky times a lot, but I thought it would be more physically challenging.

The sheer redneckery of us standing in our backyard pulling feathers off of dead roosters was something to behold. But as Wade said about shoveling gravel, you just make yourself get stupider, and then you can do the job without thinking about how much you hate it.
Ready to be cut into pieces. Look at his legs, holy cow!

It's surprising how much smaller they are without their feathers. Once the birds were plucked, I cut off the oil gland on top of the tail, then we cut off the feet and head.
Now comes the really gross part. I thought it was yuck sticking my hand up a goat's bajingo, but that's nothing on cutting the anus and bowels out of a chicken. Which brings me to a story:

When I was in college I worked for a company that did telephone surveys. Surveys, not sales, so I was only Satan's-minion-adjacent. I hated it precious, and was complaining about it to my mom, and she, ever the compassionate nurturer, said, "Well, you could be working at E.A. Miller (a meat-packing plant) cutting buttholes out of cows." Ah, perspective.
Once the dangerous stuff is out you can go spelunking to extract the rest of the entrails. Chickens are small and I ripped a number of gloves trying to perform the dilation and curettage. Perhaps that reference is in poor taste as well as technically inaccurate.
Captain America helped a little with the plucking.

Cutting out the vent--that's chicken-speak for butthole.

John removing the innards.

Finally, a million years later and just in time for me to shower and get in costume for my piano recital, we finished. We were ready to not be smelling chicken anymore.
What I learned:
1. It was a good experience overall, because I would have felt so wasteful if I'd just thrown away all that meat.
2. It's hard to kill an animal when you're not used to it, and I think that's a good thing.
3. It was a good class in beginning butchery.
4. The difference between a sharp knife and a really sharp knife. Thank goodness for my Grandpa Herd and the filleting knife he gave us for Christmas.
5. It takes forfreakingever when you are an ignorant fool.
6. I don't want to do this very often.

Sorry if anyone is a vegetarian now because of me. I think it's good to know where your food comes from. I like that my kids can look at a cut of meat and know what part of the animal it was, and I hope they don't take eating it for granted.

I know you're eager, but you'll have to be patient

Coming soon to this space: lurid details of The Week of Killing Stuff.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

just getting ourselves in the mood

This is a horrible, hilarious video. Not for the queasy, but anyone who's watched Our Daily Bread and survived will find it instructive.

The juxtaposition of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory music with the butchery of thousands of chickens is truly genius.

Friday, October 23, 2009

and then your wife start gettin' all mad, because the roof won't close, and the bed that's in the shape of your face is gettin' rained on?

This rooster will be dead soon. Just so you know.

Tomorrow's the day. We've sequestered the males of the species, all but the Australorp rooster. And by "we" I mean "John went out in his tapey chore pants--these ones: hideous, right? I KNOW, he won't throw them away--and chased the chickens around in the run until he caught all the desirables and excused them into the yard, ripping the seam of his pants from crotch to waistband in the process, and I'm not sewing them shut again, if he was wondering."

The condemned roosters get to stay in the run with water, but no food. That's so . . . let's see, how can I say this delicately? How about this: it's so they can digest all the food they have in their stomachs, poop it out in those soft, greenish turds with the surrounding milky liquid, and not put anything more in the system. That way when we cut their heads off, dip their dead bodies into boiling water, yank out all their feathers, then cut them open and tear out their guts there won't be a bunch of half-digested food in the intestines and poop in the bowels that will get all over our precious meat. Phew! I hope you were able to get the gist of what I was saying, despite my painstaking obfuscation of the gory details.

I don't take pleasure in killing these fellows, but it's too many roosters per hen and we may as well not waste their lives, right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

nobody dresses as mother teresa

Halloween's coming up.

John and I have an interfaith marriage--he's always going on about how Halloween celebrates evil and he is a total downer at a ritual sacrifice. I do see his point--for me, Halloween is primarily about fun-size Butterfingers, and secondarily about dressing trampy, but there does seem to be a large percentage of the population that has decided that the way to observe this innocent Pagan holiday is to act like creepy sociopaths. Nasty! Let me dress like a naughty French maid in peace, won't you?

Last year I was a witch, and I was thinking I would repurpose my witch dress and be either a dementor or the Ghost of Christmas Future (same diff), but nah. But then I was stumped for a different idea. I thought we could go as KISS--John obviously being Gene Simmons, I'm Paul Stanley, Captain America is Ace Frehley, The Hulk is Peter Criss, Superman and Pinga are roadies--but I didn't want to ruin my good snow boots by painting silver teeth on them. I'd like to be a superheroine, but to look good it requires purchase of a costume from one of those theme stores, and that violates my personal code of ethics. And remember how I bought that awesome Russian furry coat from the D.I., and I was going to be Agent XXX? Well, the accessories (leggings, mukluks, fur hat, gun, Carly Simon CD) killed it. I don't like buying stuff I can't reuse. Also I don't have the same hair as Barbara Bach.

But then I went to Smith and Edward's and found some yellow rain pants for ten bucks, score, and I think I'll be a Jooky Sea Captain. Boring! But I do look pretty hot in them.

What are y'all going to be for Halloween? Come, share.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

product may stay: kinder happy hippo

Okay, America, here's the problem. We're the best at anything we put our minds to, are we not? Haven't we invented circles around everyone else? Haven't we gotten exponentially better at soccer since we decided we cared about it? Aren't we hardworking to the point of familial neglect and heart failure? Don't we discover every year a new way to circumvent tax laws to land just this side of fraud/evasion?

So why is it that we still make such boring, pedestrian candy? Do we want our toddlers to develop Type 2 diabetes or not? Because I don't see that happening if we keep handing them Big League Chew and wax lips. And those are some of the better examples! Snickers? Hubba Bubba? Twizzlers? Yawn, yawn, yawn. What stupid candy. I'm getting upset just thinking about it.

The Kinder Happy Kippo is brought to you by the same people who make Nutella and Kinder Surprise eggs and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. They're crispity little hippo bodies full of hazelnut and cream filling and they are the single most glorious candy that has ever been invented. They have little nostrils! And eyes! They come in two flavors! That I know about! I buy mine at the London Market or Pirate O's, but they are available in spades on Amazon and other online retailers.

Remember what I said about glorious? Why are you still here and why haven't you bought any yet? Are you calling me a liar?

and I didn't even see a single civil war re-enactment

Our trip to the South--not the Deep South, if I'm correct, I think that's more Georgia territory--was educational and illustrative. Here are some of the things I learned:

1. They do not let their blind people sit around goldbricking.
2. A cannon was accurate up to three miles. Not all cannons, I'm sure, but certainly some of them. It said so on a piece of paper I read, so I'm pretty sure I know what I'm talking about.
3. Charleston is gorgeous, like Disneyland, only real! I think it's probably haunted, too.
4. It's so humid that ferns grow on the trees. And the squirrels will sit and eat nuts right in front of you.

Who could imagine such a crazy coincidence that three different girls would wear jeans and black jackets?

5. Camden shuts down during inclement weather.
6. Charleston has a fun market street where you can buy hilariously expensive palmetto baskets and a four hundred dollar turquoise bracelet, or anything else that tickles your fancy, like spice mixes that have swear words and double entendres in their names.
7. People really do call you things like "shug" and "honey-lamb." It's infectious--I found myself hugging people by the end of the trip! I don't like hugging people outside my family.

I didn't ever make it to a Piggly Wiggly, because I didn't want to hijack our van and make everyone come in and buy bruised produce with me. No alligators, either. So much marshland going completely to waste! But it's beautiful there, and if John will ever LISTEN to me and get a work-from-home position like some lucky people we know, I would seriously consider moving there. More in-depth commentary and pictures over on the other blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

'cause a whole lotta woman needs a whole lot more

Not really looking my best, but give me a break. We got up at 4:30 to get to the airport and I had to make do.

You guys. I'm contaminated. We went shopping in Camden or Columbia or some town in South Carolina, and I bought skinny jeans and boots. Jill is SUCH an enabler. I think I carry them off about as well as any pear-shaped mother of four can hope to. I still maintain that skinny jeans and flats look stupid on anyone but the very boniest of girls, and I need no evidence beyond that of my own senses to prove it. Big girls may have curves in all the right places, but that doesn't mean we can wear flats with tapered-leg pants. Curse you, saddlebags! Someday when I stumble into a lake of oil and doubloons I'll buy these Frye boots that I need like a hole in the head but I need the cards, but for now I'm happy with the boots I got.

The South is a lovely place. More in a bit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I forgive you for all you ain't

One day I walked into my parents' house, and on the counter there was a to-do list my mom had made for my dad. I don't remember any of the jobs on the list except the first one, which was "Shoot cats." This being a rural area, people tend not to spay and neuter their pets, despite the fact that I'm sure our Price Is Right saturation level is very high. My parents feed their cat outside, so the dish attracts all manner of riff-raff, not excluding skunks and raccoons, and it would seem they occasionally they get fed up with it. I don't think my dad ever got around to shooting the cats.

My grandpa's farm is down the road a few miles from us, and he has his own self-sustaining population of feral cats. He's had his truck conk out on him numerous times, and when the mechanic goes poking around inside he invariably finds the remains of a cat tangled up in the engine--one particularly lucrative time there were five cats dispersed throughout the truck's innards.

Our house is the same way. I grow weary of our garage smelling like cat pee. Last year a kitten got wrapped up in our fan belt, which was both sad and annoying. And Skiver does a terrible job of defending his territory--it's like, "Grow a pair, Skiver!" Then I remember he already had a perfectly serviceable pair and some jerk cut them off. RUDE. So the many cats of loose morals and their numberless offspring have the run of our place. When we move the food and water dish inside to keep the cats away the mice start taking over. And playing! I don't think I should be such a large cog in this predator/prey balancing machine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

what I baked you wanna eat it put it in you

Okay, so, a while ago I read this article about the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. It was in the midst of my own pilgrimage to Mecca, and I was a tiny bit cross with all these people for making my hunger even worse. Because I was dealing with so many more complicated variables! Oatmeal! Freaky sweeteners! Wheat flour! Gah! I could be going to the moon with this kind of dedication!

The base recipe I'd been using was from A Taste of Gem Valley Country Living, which was their second choice for a clunky name, the first being Idaho Can Cook and Youdaho Can Too!, but that was taken. These local cookbooks are full of recipes for casseroles which people who were not raised by my mom seem to really like**; advice on how to preserve a husband (which sadly is not really a functioning recipe--I tried it once and the body began to spoil almost immediately); and more ways to add canned soup to your diet than you can shake a stick at. Suet pudding. Jell-O in with the vegetables. Sweet potatoes called yams. But something you can always count on are the desserts. There was one outlier for cookies with pudding mix in the recipe--don't ask--but two other chocolate chip cookie recipes I found were the best I'd had since I left home and realized that I didn't like my mom's cookies (sorry mom don't write me out of the will I think you make the best baked chicken and pork roasts of all time we just like different things in our cookies is all).

I used to make chocolate chip classic, but a few years ago I switched to oatmeal chocolate chip and had a hard time going back. So when I decided I needed a less-deadly cookie recipe, that's where I spent my energies. And it was really hard work, meow! The wheat flour was an easy switch, because the oatmeal lays the groundwork for it, but as soon as I took out the refined sugar, BAM. Cakey nightmares, no matter what I did with sugar amounts, baking temperatures or times, added or subtracted liquids. Frust!

And then I read the NY Times cookie story, and thought, Oho! Mayhap the sizing is la problema! So a couple of batches ago I tried double scoops. The cookies spread all over the baking sheet, but at least they weren't cakey. Then another hint from the story--resting the dough in the fridge overnight. The double scoops of rested dough, cooked for two minutes longer and twenty-five degrees cooler were almost perfect. In the article it refers to the triple layers of texture: crispy, chewy and gooey. Or something . . . I've forgotten the exact wording. But the point is, the cookie has to be of a certain size for all these textures to occur. When I made my usual wee cookies, they couldn't get all spready to crisp up the edges and melt the centers. Now they have just the tiniest frame of crispy, then a wider section of chewy, and the middles are so gooey the cookie tends to fall apart if you don't wait a minute. A minor quibble. And they taste good the next day. Overall, I'm ready to declare this project a qualified success.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Preheat oven to 325*. Cream together in a large bowl:
1 C butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 C Sucanat
1 T agave nectar (to account for the moisture lost in the brown sugar)
1 t vanilla
1 t hot water

2 C rolled oats
1 1/2 C wheat flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda

Mix together, then add:
2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

When chocolate chips are incorporated, cover the dough and put it in the fridge to rest overnight. Ha! No way are you doing that. I certainly don't. Just know that the fresh dough will spread all over the pan--I usually make one sheet and chill the rest.

Now, about the sizing--my scoop is 1 1/2" across, and I just stack two level scoops on top of each other, like a dough snowman. You can try a 3" scoop and I bet it would work just the same, as long as the dough is rested.

Bake at 325* for ten minutes.

**Upon review it sounds like I'm saying that my mom makes grody casseroles, which is not the case. She doesn't make them because she thinks they're gross, and on the whole I'd say she's right, especially about that green bean/hamburger/mushroom soup abomination. Oh! Or that thing with the TATER TOTS IN IT! Ugh. So my sisters and I don't really groove on them either.

Monday, October 12, 2009

barfing in the store is the mostest fun

Something I miss about living in and around more people is having someone to go shopping with. Today I had to go buy some "business casual" attire, of which I own none, for a thing John and I are doing on Friday. Jeans and dresses are what I have to offer. Stacy London would be ashamed of me having been hit by the frump truck, I'm sure, but I can't feed animals and garden and cook in business casual. Some could, I'm sure, but they're probably not crashing slobs.

So off I went with my three youngest to hunt and gather an outfit. They did the best they could, but they couldn't give any really useful criticism. Just "you look pretty good!" or sticking their tongues out.

I guess I'm part of the system now, because I bought three shirts, and all of them are those maternity chic smocky looking things that everyone wears. I've held out for such a long time, but they're starting to look normal to me now. Next thing you know I'll be in skinny jeans and mukluks (shudder). And all this could have been avoided if I had a nice girlfriend whose advice I trusted to come with me. The simpler life has its drawbacks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

you know how people have these little habits that get you down?

I was going to use this time to discuss the mystery novel I just read and the points it raises about Mormons and our tendency to set ourselves apart more by what we don't do (smoke, drink, have extramarital sex) than what we do (comfort, serve), and turn it into one big self-defining characteristic (be self-righteous), but that was a downer and discussing my religion in such a public space makes me feel like I'm watching someone make out in the checkout line.

So instead I'll show you the lamp I finished for Pinga's room. Here's the before:
And here's the after:
I have black and white ticking-stripe curtains on the windows, nothing on the walls, and now there is a huge white wardrobe we found in the classifieds. It's pretty bare, and it needed a few flowers to make it look less like an orphanage dormitory. Not that orphans don't like flowers! I'm sure they enjoy looking at flowers very much when they get time out from reciting catechism and scrubbing stone floors on their hands and knees.

And here is Captain America helping me make French toast from two loaves of challah the other night. Captain America wants to be a chef when he grows up. Fool! He should already be competing regionally by now if he wanted to realize that dream.
Here's the finished stack. We finally ate the last of it this morning.
I'm telling you, it's worth the effort. It's like eating custard in bread form.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

an announcement that will change the world as long as "the world" means "my standard cookie recipe"

This is a very important day. You know how I've been laboring lo, these many moons to create an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe with no refined flour or sugar, right? Read that last part in King Julian's voice.

Well, it has given me no end of problems! Here's what I need from a cookie:
1. not too thick
2. not cakey
3. gooey center
4. crispy edges.
Here's what I got:
1. soggy
2. cakey

SO maddening. I've made, if not hundreds, then tens of batches of cookies in the last year, and all of them have been failures. But last night I think I whipped it. I'm going to make sure, and I will post the recipe once I know. Not that anyone has my crusade-intensity need for this recipe, but it's a good one.

why parents get terrible sleep

I thought this was an interesting article. We used to live by a family who had an autistic daughter. Her case was mild, from what I remember, because she didn't seem to have any of the severe behavioral problems this author mentions with her son. It's such a heartbreaking and confusing condition, perhaps not least so because reliable information is so hard to come by. And it seems that no one treatment works for everyone.

It reminds me of how I felt like I was playing Russian roulette every time I got pregnant, that each time I would think, "This is it. This is the time my luck runs out." You know, that I would miscarry, or that my baby would be just a ball of hair and teeth, or have severe mental or physical disabilities. Being a parent is scary. Even without disabilities to worry about, there are still kidnappers and perverts and drunk drivers and drugs and sex to keep you up at night wondering how you could go about moving to the hinterlands to raise your family.

I'm so unqualified for this job.

Friday, October 2, 2009

fairly easy wheat bread for earthy food nerds

Remember the hippie food bible I bought a while ago? It's by Sally Fallon and is called Nourishing Traditions, of course. I love hippies, they're so earnest! It's full of kooky recipes for things like Carob Fudge and Raw Liver Drink, which sound horrid, right? I want to make sure I'm not getting too crunchy. There are a number of principles set forth in the book, one of them being that flour products should be soaked for at least 12 hours prior to use. This makes the grains easier to digest, as well as adding flavor (as in the no-knead bread that we eat all the time).

A couple of days ago I started making the Yeasted Buttermilk Bread. She says it's a good compromise bread more amenable to sandwich making than sourdough, for all of us disgusting people with the Western diet who love to make ourselves sick--my words, not hers. I may be oversensitive in my inference, but when there's a recipe on the previous page called "Cheater's Bread," and what makes it cheater's bread is the white flour contained therein, you have to giggle. I agree with her, of course, but I still like to poke fun.

So far I really like the buttermilk bread. It's moist, and has just a little zing not usually found in traditional wheat bread. I also like that the crust is a little thicker and sort of crispy. We're going to eat some BLTs on it tonight, and we'll see how it ages over the next couple of days if there is any left.

Yeasted Buttermilk Bread (from Nourishing Traditions--minor changes marked with asterisks)
4 cups freshly ground spelt, kamut or hard winter wheat flour
1-1 1/2 C warm buttermilk
1/2 C melted butter
1/4 C warm water
1 package dry yeast*
2 T honey
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 C unbleached white flour

Combine freshly ground flour, 1 C buttermilk and butter in a food processor and process until a ball forms. If the dough is too stiff add more buttermilk, but it should be thick enough to form a ball. Place in a bowl, cover with a towel** and leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours.

Combine water, yeast and honey in a small bowl and leave for 5 minutes or until it bubbles. Add salt and baking soda and mix well. Place half the flour mixture, half the yeast mixture and 1/2 C white flour in a food processor. Process until a smooth ball forms. Repeat with the other half of dough, yeast and white flour.

Knead the two balls together briefly and place in a buttered bowl. Cover and let rise 2 hours, until doubled. Punch down, cut the dough in half and process each half in a food processor for 30 seconds each. Form into loaves and place in buttered loaf pans (preferably stoneware***). Cover with a towel and let rise 1-2 hours until doubled. Bake for 30 minutes at 350*.

*I used 1 T, since my yeast is in a quart jar in the freezer.
**I would recommend plastic wrap instead, because the towel allows it to dry out so much that an unappealing crusty shell forms on the dough--the food processor eliminates it, but it still looks gross.
***I don't have these kind of pans, because I'm an uncaring Philistine who wants my children to die.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

agritainment report for october 1, 2009

Remember that thing where we pretend to be farmers? Here's how that whole mess is going:
So very many chickens. We can barely keep up with their voracious appetites. They get a scoop of feed--you can see how big it is!--every day, as well as a slop bucket or two of kitchen scraps. But it is as a drop in the bottomless ocean of their hunger.

The four mutt roosters are going to the chop next Saturday, though, which should help. Our neighbors have some ducks and rabbits and chickens of their own to process, so we're going to piggyback and learn how to do a good old-fashioned chicken slaughter up right.

Traci is still bored and friendless, but rumor has it that her penmate is knocked up, so she should arrive in the next week or two. Then it will be Traci's turn to go visit Cyclone.

Our last cutting of hay was gorgeous. Green and lovely, and miraculously didn't get rained on while it was down even once.

Just look at that. If I were feeling peckish and had some Blue Cheese dressing . . .

A little bit of frost damage in the garden. I think I'll make fried green tomatoes tomorrow night to send the season out properly.

The squashes fared a little worse than the tomatoes, but they've done their fecund business already and can be pulled. I am so happy with my cucurbits! Look at this silly fellow:
Just like that story about the axe head being forgotten and the tree growing around it. It's more pronounced from the other side: I don't want to hear any butt or bosom jokes. We don't allow potty humor around here.

I shan't be doing cucumbers next year. They taste okay, but I didn't really use them like I should have. Maybe in a while when I've got my feet under me better I'll try again.

Look at all our squashes! The pumpkins are perfect for carving--Connecticut Field, if you want to try some of your own. Pinga is sort of obscuring our monster Blue Hubbard with our one ripe melon, but I'm telling you it's big.

I am for sure and certain going to grow potatoes again. Next year I'm trying the bucket/wire cage method. I'll explain later. The way it's been described to me, it gets you a whole mess of potatoes.

Here's what the inside of the baby melon looks like. It tastes like cantaloupe, imagine that, but with a tiny hint of molasses. I'm just stoked that I ate a melon from my own garden, because that has never happened before.

Is it too early to start ordering seeds? Also I've got to get some rhubarb, now that I've proven somewhat worthy of it.