Monday, December 12, 2011

More Maggie on Monday

Black plastic? Don't remember a thing.
       Three weeks have passed since the last update on Maggie.  The first of those weeks Maggie only managed to chew up slippers and a moccasin (just one, lest she make a matching pair) of a guest.  Still, she was making improvements.  In the second week, it wasn't until the discovery of a chewed flashlight revealed that the strange unidentifiable, mangled thick black pieces of plastic previously found all over the floor belonged to it.  That still makes two weeks ago a good week since it was the discovery only, not the actual chewing. And whose fault is it anyway since  the flashlight was left in her reach in the first place? She  had to be given the benefit of the doubt, not 100% of the blame.
Nose at rest.
     Signals for going outside are still in the developmental stage.  Apparently Maggie finds her owners difficult to train. Sometimes it is the tear around grabbing anything in sight.  Sometimes a bark.  Many a trip outside finds her walking all over tempted by the wonderful smells on the ground that only she can sniff. Maggie does have a great nose.  On one trip just outside the door the nose immediately went to the ground, a pounce, and then the squeal of some creature that was just too slow to get away.   There is no fun standing in the cold watching a dog run around sniffing the ground. But nighttime is her fun time to pursue the creatures of the night - real or imagined. Gee, just go, get it over with, and get back into the warmth inside. 
Irresistibly innocent Maggie face
     So far her best outside cue is to walk over and slap at you with her paw.  She is pretty good actually with a shot to the cheek.  Ah, working on this one - glad to know she wants to go out, not wet the floor, paired with can't discipline her to stop this since the swat is her best way of saying, "I gotta go now or you'll be cleaning up the floor." Not really pleasant, we're working on the fine tuning so it is just a nudge and run to the door with maybe a bark.  Still, her other attributes make her worth keeping - that Maggie face!

Easy comfort food, seafood style -
                             Shrimp Casserole
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice (use wild rice)
1 1/2 lbs medium-size raw shrimp
1/2 cup butter
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, chopped
2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of shrimp soup, undiluted*
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Cheddar-colby cheese blend
1/4 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
350 oven
1. Prepare rice according to package directions.
2. Peel shrimp, and devein. Cut shrimp in half crosswise for more bites, if
3. Melt butter over medium heat; add bell pepper and next
4 ingredients, and sauté 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Stir in soup,
shrimp, salt, and pepper; cook 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. (Do
not overcook.)
4. Combine shrimp mixture and rice. Pour into a lightly greased 13-
x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup shredded cheese and 1/4 cup
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Adapted from Southern Living APRIL 2007

Friday, December 9, 2011

(Some) Lessons Learned

     The warm air, open window of opportunity came shortly after Thanksgiving.  It always does. Noncritical farm chores need to be put aside. So, to the top of the priority list went bulb planting and Christmas lights and garland. 
     The bags, arriving in October and carefully saved in the garage, revealed a mere 105 bulbs to plant plus the 8 graciously given as a complimentary gift. Thank you. Wasn't there a note to self from this time last year?  Ah, now I remember. Still fresh from the memories of beautiful daffodil arrays, the fall bulb catalogs arrive in late spring tempting with great offers and the promise of increasing the beautiful display from the harbingers of spring.  And heck, then fall was so far off why surely there would be plenty of free time on a warm day to get everything planted. 

Armed and not dangerous
     So here, armed with a new gadget, visions swirled through my head about how fast these bulbs could be planted on this day. Maybe it was December, but it was warm, and I was not going to be planting these darn bulbs on a freezing cold day in partially frozen ground.  My mind envisioned this giant drill digging perfectly round holes in rows where the quick and efficient process would be drop in bulbs, cover, and move on.  Not so fast. It didn't work the way a drill works in wood.  The drill went in, but had to be pulled up with the dirt, drilled again and repeated until the hole was deep enough.  No matter, it beats trying to dig a small hole or a big hole in rocky earth with a big shovel. 
     Ah, to be near the end 2 1/2 hours later, with only ten bulbs to go, (not including the free ones) who should appear, but Maggie, my faithful companion, with a bulb proudly in her mouth and just out of reach. She had her treasure, and I had my vision of my work being undone. For sure, at least 104 bulbs are in the ground, but maybe less.  Didn't check; didn't want to know.
     Lesson Two Learned.  Get the Christmas lights and garland put up on the very next warm day.  Shouldn't one check the two-year-old light sets to make sure they worked before putting them up? Note to self next year all three will work instead of just one.

Dessert - crust is tender, filling is perfect - only whip cream and a sliver of a slice needed
                           Caramel-Pecan Tart 5*
 3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
 2 cups flour
 2/3 cup powdered sugar
 3/4 cup butter, cubed
 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
 1/2 cup honey
 2/3 cup butter
 3 Tbs whipping cream
Oven 350
1.  Bake pecans for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool.
2. Pulse flour, powdered sugar, and 3/4 cup butter in a food processor 5 to
6 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pat mixture evenly on bottom
and up sides of a lightly greased 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.
3. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a
wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool.
4. Bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 cup butter, and whipping cream to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in toasted pecans, and spoon hot filling into prepared crust.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Cool on a
wire rack 30 minutes or until completely cool.
Adapted from Southern Living NOVEMBER 2007

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maggie on Monday

      Sweet Maggie.  What a great companion she has become! In a mere two weeks she has made so many improvements.  We're almost to the point that she sees cats as tolerable, chickens and turkeys bearable, the horses scary, and the sheep - they still look like a lot of fun to chase.  What progress! What a neat dog! What a glowing tale could be told this week!
     Well, that was two days ago.  With sunrise today, Maggie fell off the wagon so to speak.  Sleeping just a little later than normal, I awoke to a phone call and Maggie ripping into her super strong bed for super strong chewers.  The zipper was off and she was starting to unstuff it.
     A dog whisperer would say that when something is wrong in Maggie's world she just starts to rip and chew.  She must need to go out. So with coffee cup in hand and Maggie's empty stomach, we went out.  Everything was going well, she more or less left the cats alone.  With all animals out it was time to clean stalls. 
     Now a farm and animals have their own routine and the sounds that go along with them.  The continuous pitch of the gobbling turkeys sounded an alarm. Sure enough, there was Maggie with a rooster pinned to the ground.  Where were the other chickens to help their com padre? Not a single peep out of them. They hightailed it out of there; after all, they are chicken.  Scolding Maggie and rescuing the rooster was my immediate mission. Fearing the worst, I watched to see what, if anything the chicken could do next.  Up and running, the rooster joined the others while proudly crowing. The winner of the battle! Who would have thought?
     Maybe next time I'll feed Maggie before I go out. 
     The rest of the day was shaky at best as everything, to include a scrub brush, seemed to taste better than her bone.  Apparently cleaning for Thanksgiving was just not giving her enough attention. However, her eyes tell me there is still hope.  I don't always have to clean that much. : ) She is still staying.

An OMG recipe - Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart
             FOR THE CRUST
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (14 crackers)
1/3 cup sugar
14 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ lb unsalted butter, melted
½ cup half-and-half
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 package (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 ripe banana, finely mashed
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
 2  Tbs sugar
1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Orange zest (optional)
1. Oven 350
2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter in
a bowl and mix well.
3. Pour into an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press evenly
into the sides and bottom.
4. Bake for 10 minutes, cool to room temperature.
5.  Heat the half-and-half, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt,
cinnamon, and nutmeg in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water
until hot, about 5 minutes.
6. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl, stir some of the hot pumpkin into
the egg yolks to heat them, then pour the egg-pumpkin mixture back into the
double boiler and stir well.
7. Heat the mixture over the simmering water for another 4 to 5 minutes,
until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.
8. Dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Add the dissolved gelatin,
banana, and orange zest to the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Set aside to
9. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to beat until
firm peaks form. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin
mixture and pour it into the cooled tart shell. Chill for 2 hours or overnight.
10. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar
and vanilla and continue to beat until firm peaks form. Pipe or spoon
the whipped cream decoratively on the tart and sprinkle, if desired, with
orange zest. Serve chilled.
11. This tart can be made a day or two ahead and kept refrigerated. Decorate
it with whipped cream an hour or two before serving.
Cooking Tip: Use a defrosted banana from freezer - it mashes more easily.
Cooking Tip: Grate zest early and allow to dry - it sprinkles on cream more
easily.  Used fine and medium microplane.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

                   - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mondays with Maggie

Maggie made it through her first week with us, or we made it through our first week with Maggie.
Of course, because Maggie is an older puppy, we could escape all the trials and tribulations that a younger puppy brings to a new home. Well, throw that thought out. : )
We are now less one cell phone charger cord, one less riding boot, one less dog toy made with super strong fire hose material, two less leash leads, one plus hole in a people blanket, various pillows with dog slobber, but no holes, a super strong bacon flavored plastic type bone that she lost interest in and lost, a Kong chew toy that she lost interest in, a Kong bone toy that she lost interest in, a Kong tennis ball that she loved - so much that she has lost it in the house somewhere, and finally one hole and two ripped corners in a Kong bed made of super strong material for super strong chewers. 

"What have I done?"  I chose a puppy that needed a home and humans who believed in trying to make her positive qualities prevail.  She doesn't jump up on people, doesn't bite when you need to take things away from her (cords, boots, toys, blankets, papers, and many other etc.) doesn't growl when you put your hand near her food or near and in her mouth to remove forbidden objects, loves to be scratched, doesn't jump on little kids or lick them, puts her head on a little girl's lap to be petted and be called my dog, walks quietly on a leash, sits and lies down when told, and watches out the glass window door to warn of predators - real or imagined.  Maggie has the sweetest face and eyes - irresistible.  That's why she is staying.

These cookies - so good, so easy. 
Special Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp   baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream (used sour cream)
3 Tbs cornstarch
3 cups all-purpose flour
 1. Beat the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla, and almond extract until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well.  Add half the cream, all of the cornstarch, and half the flour; beat well.  Add the remaining cream and flour, mixing just until all of the
ingredients are well incorporated.
2. Divide the dough in half, flatten into rounds, and wrap well.
Refrigerate for 1 hour or more, to facilitate rolling.
3. Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two
baking sheets.
4. Transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured(use confectioners’ sugar) work surface and place a piece of plastic wrap over it while you roll it our to keep it from sticking
to the rolling pin.  Roll the dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut it into
the shapes.  
5. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until they're set but not browned.
Remove them from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet
before transferring to a rack.   

Cooking Tips: Roll out on a surface sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.
 The dough is also sturdy enough to be cut into fanciful shapes and decorated.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Friday, November 11, 2011

Maggie, Day Three

     Our animal farm story continues with the arrival of Maggie. Her picture was posted on the internet site for St. Hubert's.  Something about her look kept me going back.  It could have been the color, or the eyes, or the expression on her face, or the desire to find another Shiloh.
     Off to St. Hubert's to take a closer look at Maggie.  There she lay on her bed as I walked through the kennel area.  It reminded me of Shiloh 4 years ago, lying patiently while all the other dogs jumped and barked.  She did get up on my return trip down the aisle.  I asked to see her.
     In the outside enclosure she was moderately interested in me, but more interested in the smells of the cage.   Hooked pretty much at first sight, paperwork was processed, fee paid, and Maggie left St. Hubert's. Should I have cared more that the previous two matches did not work out? After listening carefully to the details of her history, I thought that I had the situation figured out, and it would be a successful match.

Is that a smile?
     She was wonderful in the car. She was wonderful in the house (cross this off, that was only the first three hours of the first night).  She didn't jump up on people and liked to be petted. She was wonderful until poor Gizmo kitty, who did not know to let sleeping dogs lie, decided to go close and sniff Maggie's nose while she was sleeping by me.   Too late to stop the interaction,  Maggie opened her eyes, saw the cat, growled and took off.  Now there is a reason for the expression scaredy cat.  That is Giz even on her best day.  She took off and couldn't be found for hours - the next day actually.  She wanted no part of this dog.  This home invasion by a new creature was not a Shiloh.
     Now what?  I couldn't fall back asleep and I knew I wasn't dozing because I was beginning to see the entire nightly rerun of an evening's worth of Fox programs.
     What was I going to do if Maggie considered cats a food group?  There were three more in the barn outside. The mixed breeds in this dog need to be outside and able to run.  This might be trouble.        
     Not having kids to keep me awake at night, now it was a dog.  The Carrie Underwood song kept playing over and over in my mind, "It started out hey, cutie, where'd you come from, then it turned into oh, no, what have I done?"  Sixty plus pounds of dog and still a puppy? What had I done?
      Luckily with the morning light and some sleep more rational thought prevailed. So, the facts as known -she likes to chew - anything, likes to run - everywhere, forget about trying to catch her on a tear around, likes to counter surf - note to self, keep food back from the edge, but she has the sweetest face and she still has a puppy brain. A puppy brain, cope with it, outsmart it, after all you are a human, the superior species higher up on the brain chain.
      Here she'll have her forever home, but she'll never know that if it weren't for Shiloh being such a great companion, she might have ended up in someone else's home.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You Are Who/What You Think You Are

Can you see Chicken Little?  A bit of confusion here, maybe?  Watching animal behavior can unlock some thoughts about human behavior.  Chicken Little is a temporary guest on our farm.  The four young chickens, slightly larger than he, would have no part of him sharing anything - not food and least of all, their space.  They pecked and chased him until he flew out of their reach.  But, he landed in the turkey pen with an empty stomach.  Promptly hopping into the dish of turkey grain he pecked at any turkey beak that wanted food.  They pretty much left the little squirt to have his way. 
     Climbing in with the turkeys to catch the little guy each night to put him safely away was added to the routine.  Each new day brought the pecking at him from the chickens and then back into the turkey pen he flew.  This went on for days until one day, when locking the turkeys up in the dark there was no Chicken Little to be found.  Could the turkeys have finally decided to push their weight around? Was it his demise?  But no -  the next morning he came hopping out the door with the turkeys.  Now at night he is usually the first in and  can be found right in there with the turkeys, roosting after dark. The moral of the story, according to Chicken Little, is that if you eat like a turkey with turkeys, act like a turkey, and roost like a turkey, well then, no argument, you are a turkey.

     So it is that Chicken Little found a place with the big guys.  And if only people would realize that sometimes those who are just a little bigger just try to boss others around.  Just get with the real big guys and there's no threat.  Those with big hearts, big minds, and/or big bodies just don't have to go after others to prove a point.

Tis the season for an easy great fall cider drink.

                         Mulled Apple Cider with Orange and Ginger 5*
8 cups unpasteurized apple cider
          A 3-inch cinnamon stick
10       whole cloves
 1        navel orange, peeled and        
          sliced crosswise
         A 2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger,-- cut into 6 slices
      Combine the cider, cinnamon stick, cloves, orange and the ginger and simmer   for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a heat-proof pitcher and serve warm.
Adapted from  Gourmet | October 1991

Friday, October 28, 2011

Saying Goodbye

     Part of having a farm full of animals is that the inevitable happens and there comes a time to say goodbye to a beloved pet.  Shiloh, a golden collie mix - my golden wolf - could not fight off a mysterious illness that could not be cured with antibiotics nor discovered by x-rays. Adopted from a shelter when he was 1 1/2 years old, it seemed as though he would be a pal for many years. As with the random unexpected happenings of life, this wasn't to be so. 
     Shiloh was a great farm dog and great around visitors and children, but brave enough to bark at strangers. He managed to fill a space in my heart that I really didn't know was available. He had me climbing over fences, running through the woods, crossing a stream, and down a highway ramp in a wild pursuit to stop him from chasing a fox or the sheer joy of following the scent of something.
     Clearly the love of a pet is not and cannot be the same as the love for a family member.  But, a pet creeps its way into your heart with habits and expressions that sometimes only the owner will detect. A special pet seems to rejoice in your joy and understand your sadness. It will take time to remember that it's not necessary to step around that spot where the dog usually lay, there's no dog on your heels that will escape when the door is open, there's no dog to herd the sheep, or to call when it's time to go inside. The loss is new so seeing the empty water dish sends a message that it needs to be filled, or thinking I should call him to join me for a quick errand in the car. And then, I remember.
     The first impulse is to take all the reminders of the dog and put them and the sad feelings away. But then, why not fight the urge? Choose to keep those reminders, and choose to remember the times that brought smiles, fun, and a soft face resting on your lap, brown eyes looking upward.
     To remember the good times is probably the best way to deal with a loss. Helen Keller said it best.

  "What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thank You, Chickens

If you are lucky enough to find free-range chicken eggs you can make the best yellow cake without food coloring. What a difference an egg makes!                                            Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake
2 ½ cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups sugar; divided
10 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 Tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks plus 3 large egg whites, room temperature (I used 7 medium yolks, 4 medium whites)
           Foolproof Chocolate Frosting
20 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 cup  confectioners' sugar
¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
 pinch of table salt
 3/4 cup light corn syrup
 1 tsp vanilla extract
 8 oz milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
350 oven.
1. Grease  two 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour.
2. Whisk flour, baking power, baking soda, salt, and l 1/2 cups sugar
together.  Whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and
3. Beat egg whites at until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running,
gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks
form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear
moist).  Transfer to bowl and set aside.
4. Add flour mixture to bowl with whisk attachment.  With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds.  Scrape whisk and sides of bowl.  Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully combined, 10 to 15 seconds.
5. Stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
6. Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. With a small knife, loosen cakes from sides of pan, and then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
Chocolate Frosting
1. In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth,
about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed.  
Add corn syrup and
vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.  Scrape sides of
bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated - a great reliable magazine for recipes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seeking Resilience

Our farm seems to have so many opportunities to learn from nature. Just looking around at the results of  pelting rain from two storms, one being Irene, reveals the resilience of nature.

Pelted by falling rain
     These flowers grow just about anywhere.  A person probably wouldn't even notice them along the roadside. However, upon closer inspection, they have beauty in their simplicity. They reseed themselves, and it is just as likely to find them in a brand new spot as it is for the place they sprouted last year.  The plants spend all summer growing and blending in with other greenery.  And then, when other summer blooms are spent, they appear almost as though out of nowhere with their perky yellow petals.

     The heavy downpours had the flowers drooping and looking rather dejected.  Subconsciously, these flowers had brought a smile to my face and lightened my spirit on the way to the chickens and geese.  Their effect on me wasn't obvious until they were drooping from the rain.  My hope was that it wasn't the end of the season for these cheerful yellow flowers. 

     On the first bright day after the rains, the flowers had rejuvenated; their stems were uplifting the flowers skyward once more.  Nature's resilience won out.  

     The name of my favorite wildflowers is unknown to me. But as a reminder to for the way life should be led, if I were to give them a name, it would be Resilience.

     This could be what my sister's pastor in OK meant when he posted these words, "Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living."

September 11, 2011 - America is back up and living.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Nikki leaving
     Does this make sense?  Does headbutting really solve a problem?  Apparently so in the sheep world.  A perfectly normal routine sort of day, who would expect sheep to immediately get into their field and bang heads into each other. 
     Maybe it was some old unresolved feud from yesterday.  Or did one toss and turn all night keeping the other awake? Should sheep count sheep when tired? 
     Clearly, one sheep couldn't have cared less about the battle or the outcome - the it's not me so I'm not getting involved. 
Winkyn (r), Blinkyn(l), and Nod(center)
     The other was content to get in as close as possible, but not participate.  Ah, the referee or the agitator,  secretly egging on the battle, or moral support - maybe.  I'll never be sure.  Know any humans like this?
     Anyway, after a few minutes, whatever the problem was, it was resolved and the flock was at peace once again.  Humans should be so capable to solve a problem and then drop it and go on with life.

Summer comfort food for today.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Angel Hair Pasta 5*
1 lb red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb yellow cherry tomatoes
½  lb small green or other colorful heirloom tomatoes, quartered
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbs slivered garlic
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup chiffonade fresh basil leaves
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp minced fresh oregano leaves
1 lb angel hair pasta
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz whole-milk ricotta salata, crumbled
½ cup toasted pine nuts (I used almonds)
½ cup grated Pecorino
Additional chopped fresh herbs, garnish
Hot French or Italian bread, accompaniment
Oven 350 degrees F.
1. In a large, glass baking dish, toss the tomatoes with the oil, garlic,
vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes are
tender, stirring occasionally, 40 to 45 minutes.
2. Remove from the oven and add the basil, parsley, and oregano. Stir well.
3. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Toss with the extra-virgin olive oil.
4. Add the tomatoes and pan juices and cook over low heat until hot, 1 to 2
minutes. Add the ricotta salata cheese and stir until mostly melted, about 1
minute. Remove from the heat and place in serving dish.
5. Toss with the pine nuts and Pecorino cheese. Garnish with herbs, as desired, and serve immediately.
 Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Sunday, September 4, 2011

At Last, Normal Noise

     Today is the first day of normal noise since Irene took away our power.  Every day since last Sunday was greeted with the steady drone of a generator - not that this is a complaint.  I was thankful for every little bit of power this past week even if a refrigerator, freezer, TV, and lights couldn't be on all at once.  At least we always had water - cold water, but good nervertheless.

     But normal noise on a farm, from the very obvious to the very subtle, is wonderful, comforting sound.
The very subtle noises for this time of year began - and always begin - around the last week in July.  Somewhere the cicadas (I think) strike up a chorus that can't be missed.  It suddenly is the new sound of morning that wasn't there the day before. To me, it is the sign of the beginning of the end of summer.  The sound totally surrounds you, and yet I've never seen the creatures that make themselves known with this sound. 

     The barn brings anticipatory noises from the turkeys as soon as they hear the key unlock their door.  The door crashing sound is brought forth by the sheep in their eagerness to get out.  They can't help but knock into each other since they don't seem to be able to get the idea that all of them can't fit through the doors at the same time.

     Even though I try to see how far I can get sneaking up on the geese, they always hear me before I get to their door.  Ditto with the chickens.  All of them get their food and fresh water. 
      My last normal sound comes from Beethovan.  As soon as I turn to leave he sneaks up and grabs at the leg of my pants.  I turn too look and as expected he has arched his neck in a perfect "S" to the ground, then towards the sky, making a victorious gooselike sound.  He successfully scared me away again, and I wouldn't want him to think anything differently.

      Although thankful for the generator and its noise, the farm is now back to normal noise, and it's great.
   Today's recipe - so simple, so good.
Sungold Tomatoes with Pasta 5*
 4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
 8 oz Sungold or cherry tomatoes
 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
       Kosher salt
 6 oz capellini, spaghetti, or bucatini
 3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan
 8 medium fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
 Toasted breadcrumbs (for garnish; optional)
1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes, season with salt, and cook, covered slightly and swirling pan often, until tomatoes blister and burst, 10-12 minutes. Press down on tomatoes to release their juices. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
2. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.
3. Transfer pasta to pan with tomatoes; set over high heat. Add 1/2 cup
pasta water. Cook, stirring and tossing often, until sauce thickens and
begins to coat the pasta, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining oil, cheese, and
half the basil and toss until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente. (Add
more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Add remaining basil, season with salt,
and serve with breadcrumbs, if desired.
Adapted from Mario Batali

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waiting for Irene

Farm guardian

Is it clear that for every life there should be some sort of purpose?  On a farm it can't be missed that every morning each of the animals has its own sense of purpose.
     Shiloh checks the storm tubes every morning.  If there's a chipmunk in there he's bound to find it, but the tube has an opposite open end that he doesn't know about.  He doesn't get the chipmunk, and still he sees it as a worthwhile pursuit.

Mick the Mighty Mouser
      Mickey is the successful mouser, snaker, and catcher of a variety of rodent-like pests.  He knows the job and he's glad to do it.
 Angel, the cat who appeared out of nowhere and decided to stay, makes it her mission to sharpen claws each day before going off for the hunt.


And finally, there is Ring Tail.  He makes sure that every bug and grasshopper knows this farm is no place to stay.  When that is taken care of there is not a single inanimate object that is safe from those paws. Similar to the Uncle Remus story about the tarbaby if it doesn't move when he wants it to he will bat at it until it does. 

Ring Tail
Not overindulged with food, free time, or human attention they go about each day looking for more food, free time, and human interaction.    Being overindulged just makes one -animal or human - want to curl up and wait to be given more. One could watch these animals and see the value in finding and developing a sense of purpose.

Such serious thoughts today - I guess that is caused by waiting for Irene.

Need a sense of purpose?  Try this recipe - so sweet, so good, so easy to make.
                     Strawberry-Lemon Shortbread Bars 5*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp lemon zest, divided
3/4 cup cold butter
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 cup strawberry preserves
Garnishes: sweetened whipped cream, fresh-- strawberry slices
Oven at 350
1. Stir together flour, powdered sugar, and 1/2 tsp lemon zest; cut in butter with a pastry blender until crumbly. Press mixture onto bottom of a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch pan.
2. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. Beat cream cheese and granulated sugar until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat just until blended after each addition. Stir in fresh lemon juice and remaining 1/4 tsp. lemon zest, beating well.
4. Spread preserves over shortbread. Pour cream cheese mixture over
preserves, spreading to edges. Bake 28 to 32 more minutes or until set. Let
cool 1 hour. Cover and chill 4 to 8 hours. Cut into bars; garnish, if desired.
Adapted from Southern Living APRIL 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What a difference a day makes!

                                                                                            This was Monday evening - a peaceful beautiful sky very unlike the sky that opened up on Sunday evening with a line of storms.  As the storm line was approaching, my little lawnmowers - aka babydoll sheep - were nowhere to be found. The rain began to pour and still I could not find them.  Drenched as I was, I had to give up the search when the lightning began - wet is one thing, electrified wet is a whole different story. When the round of storms passed, I was back out again to get them in before the rain came through again.                                     This time I searched the area in the woodline next to the secondary fence.  Way down towards the bottom of the field, of course, there they were, huddled together in a thicket. 
    Trying to get them out just reinforced all the sheep expressions that have become so familiar in our vocabulary left over from the agrarian days of our society. "Like a flock of sheep" and "acting sheepish" came to mind. I, however, was hoping for "follow like sheep," but clearly I was not the one they wanted to follow.  Although it was probably a good idea for Little Bo Peep, I would not be able to leave them alone for them to come home.  There was a good chance they would become something's dinner.  With great effort I was able to break one away from the group, and then the rest realized that was a good idea and off they went.  They raced for home base wagging their tails behind them.
     My recipe for the day- spaghetti squash - the vegetable that acts like pasta!
            Spaghetti Squash Gratins with Chunky Tomato Sauce 5*

1 (2-pound) spaghetti squash
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 oregano sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
½ cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 (15-ounce) carton fat-free ricotta cheese
   Preheat oven 400.
    Cut spaghetti squash in half crosswise.  Place cut side down on a plate and microwave 8 minutes or until tender.  Scrape inside of squash with a fork to remove spaghetti-like strands to measure 4 cups.
     Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, crushed red pepper, tomatoes, oregano, and thyme sprigs; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Discard oretgano and thyme sprigs.
     Combine remaining ½ tsp salt, remaining  ¼ tsp pepper, Parmesan, and remaining ingredients.  Spoon squash in baking dish, spoon tomato sauce evenly over squash; spoon ricotta evenly over sauce.  Bake for 50 minutes or until lightly browned.
Adapted from Cooking Light 12/05