Monday, January 2, 2012

It's Monday and Maggie Day

      Maggie has continued to show small signs of adjusting to home and farm life. Maggie had been staying away from the kitchen counters so she was gaining trust in this area.      
       But let's digress a little here. Dogs like eggs. Dogs like eggs in a shell as well. Eggs in a shell make a nice crunch. This was known from previous dog encounters.   So why were goose eggs left on the kitchen counter of a known counter-surfing dog?
     Goose eggs, about 20, were on the counter waiting to be blown out.  Now these eggs were old, quite possibly turning rotten, but there was a chance to save hopefully at least ten. 
     Picture a peaceful evening, a fire glowing, faithful dog guarding the home,  a foul order wafting through the room. A slight crunch sound heard.  No, it couldn't be.  Well, yes it could.  Maggie had found the eggs.  Could she have chosen one that was not rotten?  That would have been a 50 percent chance.  Apparently not.  
     Now there are many things with a farm and animals that can just creep you out, but a new limit was reached.  Maggie had an egg, slightly cracked in her mouth.  What is known about a really rotten egg?  There is not just the smell.  This is everything a really rotten egg is not. It is no longer a soft, yellow sphere floating in clear liquid. Nor is it any bit partially solid.  Picture thick, yet fluid, slimy, yellow and gray black swirls.  How do I know this? Maggie did not want to give up her prize possession and she had to be stopped.  Not stopping her would have the rotten egg all over.  No time to do anything but snatch the foul fowl prize bare handed from her mouth. Do rotten eggs make a dog sick? Oh, the potential for an even worse mess. (Luckily they do not.)
 Lesson learned - don't leave anything within her reach. 
It is a lesson that should have been learned from a previous Maggie
adventure, but now it has really been learned.  
Luckily, Maggie is a good companion and fun to play ball with -
she still has a home.
Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms  5*
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, halved through core, thinly sliced lengthwise
         (about 3 cups), fronds chopped
1 lb spicy Italian sausages, casings removed, coarsely crumbled
1 8-ounce package sliced fresh crimini baby bella) mushrooms
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbs fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 16-ounce package dried tortellini with pesto filling or fresh tortellini
        with 3-cheese filling
1   5-ounce package fresh baby spinach leaves
 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional (for serving)
1. Crush the fennel seeds in a plastic bag and pound with meat mallet (or heavy skillet)
2. Heat oil in  skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced
fennel bulb, sausage, and mushrooms; sauté until sausage is brown and cooked
through and fennel is almost tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and fennel
seeds; stir 1 minute. Stir in cream, then 1 cup broth; boil until liquid is
reduced and very slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook tortellini in large pot of boiling salted water until
just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain tortellini;
return to same pot.
4. Add sausage mixture to tortellini in pot. Toss over medium heat until
blended. Add spinach; toss gently until spinach wilts. Stir in 1/2 cup
cheese; add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten if dry. Season with salt
and pepper, sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, and serve, passing
additional cheese.
Adapted from Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

Farm Life - Seeking the Flip Side

     There is no question about it.  Getting up and out early to be enveloped in the cold, darkness of  winter months can be downright discouraging.  However, the animals need care and the longer that they are inside the more work there will be.  But, it is dark.  It is cold.  The water frequently is frozen and metal locks are stinging cold to the touch on bare hands.  If water spills on clothing aside from the awful feeling it creates, there is an immediate freeze and dread. Wet, freezing clothes end the chores until after a trip inside to change.  Freezing temps mean that water has to be carried rather than using a hose.  Animals need to be released to the outside and they don't seem to care if it is cold.  Stalls need to be cleaned. Everybody is hungry.
     Is there any joy to all of this? Well, no, if one faces the mundane chores in a state of semiconsciousness.  But here is where the flip side comes in.   For every seemingly routine day is filled with wonder if you simply look for the flip side; just be aware of your surroundings  .
     The flip of the dark early morning hours is the singing of birds that are silenced by the sunrise. The moon is still floating in the sky and even the dark cold can't diminish the awe of an orb that circles the earth.  

     A cloudy, dark sky can't stop the sun from carving out its
arc on the treeline revealing that the sun is on the way. Once the sun is up, the magic is gone as all the trees have sunlight on them.

     And of course, at the sound of the gates, the animals respond with their own sounds.  Not to be missed is the unmistakable screechlike crowing sound from the smallest, but loudest of all the animals - the bantam rooster that lives with the turkeys.

     Even cleaning stalls which is not exactly fun, except for young girls who are known to do anything just to be near a horse, has a flip side. Aside from the exercise and a sense of job accomplishment, the reward is that nothing hinders a mind from planning the rest of the day, dreaming of ideas, or enjoying the peaceful silence and swish of a pitchfork. The flip side is the escape, the understanding, the introspective thoughts that help make it easier to accept what is and facing whatever comes our way.

Recipe to enjoy - Ham Casserole - easy comfort food.
                        Wild Rice and Ham Casserole
 1 pkg. (6 1/4 oz) quick-cooking long grain and wild rice mix ( does not
              need to be quick cooking)
 1 pkg (10 oz. frozen cut broccoli thawed and drained ( used fresh broccoli
             partially cooked in microwave)
  2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
  1 can (10 3/4 oz. ) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  1 cup mayonnaise
  2 tsp prepared mustard
  1 cup( 4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese (used more)
1. oven 350
2. Prepare the rice according to package directions.  Spoon into an
ungreased 2 1/2 qu. baking dish.  Top with broccoli and ham.  Combine soup,
mayonnaise and mustard.  Spread over rice mixture and mix gently.  Cover and
bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Let stand 5
minutes before serving.