2010/02/25

Nature's Snowglobe

I can't complain about the very unusual winter we have been having.  Yes, it has been a very cold winter; but the lack of snow has been a little refreshing.  So, of course on the day I have to go pick up my shiny, clean new car we get the first significant snow fall of the year...  The good news is that the car handled the weather really well (even better than the Subaru).  But, now that I have had my obligatory grumble, I must admit the heavy mess was very pretty. 

A shot of the back deck...


Pretty snow...


Snow hoops, anyone???


More snow on the trees...


Hey, I had my piece done...


No picnics today, eh?


No, the tree isn't falling over - I took this picture at an angle.


This snow was so heavy, that it clung to everything.


One more month of "winter"!

2010/02/22

Labors of Love

When my mom asked me when I was going to write again, I had absolutely no intention of doing this tonight.  But she put the bug in me, so this one's for you, mom. 

Aaaahhhh.  February - the month of love.  XOXOXOXO.  Showing people that you care takes many different forms.  Some people say it best with words.  Others say it with flowers or gifts.  All of those things can be beautiful expressions of feeling.  Hey - I am a girl...  I have no problems with a bouquet or a pretty bauble.  And of course, like everyone else I need to hear the words once in a while. 

I believe that the means of expression has to fit the nature of the person giving it.  There are two things about myself that I hold to be true: 1) I am a practical person at heart (I know this may surprise some, but at the base of almost every decision I make there is usually some practicality-based logic at the heart of it all); and 2) a person's time is their most valuable asset.  As a result, when I want to express my care or appreciation for someone, I find that I tend to lean toward things that reflect these two things. 

So this V-Day, instead of buying flowers or gifts, I said it with food.  In my world FOOD = LOVE.  Food nurtures and sustains the body; time and thought are required to prepare food.  If time is precious, then gift of something that requires time is like giving a piece of yourself.  I know it's a little goofy - but its "Cher logic".  (OOOHHH, I just made an "IF,THEN" statement and used the word logic in the same sentence, I feel smartical).
 
A couple of weeks ago, the KAF website was showcasing a killer recipe for Apple Walnut Bread.  Whenever I see an interesting recipe involving apples, I think of my momma & poppa.  Hmmm.  My parents make me think of apples...  Anyhoo, my V-Day Sunday baking started off with a few loaves of bread.  (And some pecan sticky rolls in the oven). 

MMMM.  When a dough looks like this, you know it's gonna be goooodddddd. 
  
And it was...  Crunchy on the outside.  Chewy on the inside.  And absolutely killer when dredged in some Cheese Fondue.  (Since I skipped lunch, I noshed on a loaf while making dinner). 

For V-Day dinner, I embarked on a true culinary adventure. I was brave.  I was bold.  I went French.  Boeuf Bourguignon was the order of the day.  So while my apple-walnut bread was rising, I took an early morning jaunt to the grocery store.  Now, anyone that knows me well knows that I don't like to approach people and ask for anything, but I was making "the Boeuf" for Pete's sake and it had to be just so.  Nothing less would do.  I was on a mission.  Onions, check.  Carrots, check.  Celery, check.  Parsley.  NOT CHECK.  That was some sad looking parsley and it was not worthy of my dinner.  Over by the bananas, I saw my victim the produce dude...  I "nicely" explained how his wilted herbs were not fit for consumption and asked him how he planned to remedy this horrendously tragic situation.  He mumbled something in response as he ran away.  And just as I thought that was the last I would ever see of him, he came back with a whole brand-new box of parsley and let me pick!  That was kind of fun.  Well played, Cher.  Well played. 

On to the meat counter for three pounds of boneless chuck.  Nothing even close.  "Excuse me, Mr. Butcher."  "Yes ma'am, what can I help you with?"  "I need some chuck and I don't see any out."  "What do you need?"  "Oh, three pounds...". "Give me a few minutes and I will cut that up for you."  Sure enough - meat cut to order.  And she was beautiful.  Lesson learned: it pays to be picky...  Mission accomplished, it was time to cook.  I didn't get any pictures, but it truly was a thing of beauty.  So, in closing, I have only two things to say 1) It was a lot of work.  2) It was goooooddddd.  I might even still have some stuck to my chin after sucking the bowl clean. 

A decadent dinner deserves a decadent dessert.  I had picked up a Chocolate Indulgence Cake mix up at the King Arthur Store and this seemed like the perfect end to an excellent dinner.  I was already "in for a pound" (or twenty) after the Boeuf Bourguignon, so why not go for it?  I wish I had a picture of the inside, because this was the creamiest, chocolatiest dessert I have ever had.  Topped it with homemade vanilla whipped cream & fresh raspberries.  #1 child said it was a hit...  Personally, I could have rolled in it. 


 As a side note, yesterday I remade Woody's Lemon Luxury Cake (from this post).  It was the only thing on my docket Sunday, so I even went whole-hog and made the frosting that was meant to go with it.  TA DA!  Can you say butter????  I think by the time I was through, I used a whole pound of butter.  The "buttercream" frosting used about 20 tablespoons of butter - I kid you not.  It was probably one of the best frostings I have ever made, but a little went a long way.  I made the cake for a co-workers birthday and I must say that I felt pretty accomplished bringing it in.
 

In other news of note, Union won both their home games this weekend - bringing their national ranking up to #15 (2nd in ECAC).  Two more games this coming weekend before play-offs.   


That's all she wrote for tonight!

2010/02/09

Editor's Note

The dabbler apologizes for the improper use of certain words during her last post...  (as in substituting "to" for "too" or "morale" for "moral".

My head is hung low.  I realize that I was raised better than this and there is no excuse for my sorry(ier) butchering of the English language.  Alas!  You would think I was the daughter of a scullery maid and not an English teacher.  (Head drops lower). 

I still blame it on the lemons. 

2010/02/03

I know momma always said "don't play with your food", BUT...

Oh, come on now.  Surely I can't be the only person in the world whose momma used to scold her for playing with her food.  "Use your fork" or "Stop making animal sculptures out of your liver and onions" or "Beets are not for pets".  It can be a real buzz kill, 'eh???

Well, guess what?  I am a big girl now and I can play with my food if I want to.  HEE HEE HEE.  I can do all sorts of things.  And oh what fun that shall be!  Now that I am big girl, I have all sorts of tools and gadgets that can be used to do what ever I want to my food.  Mutiny in the kitchen, I say!  This girl has plans...  You see when I was at the grocery store, for some reason I thought that buying boneless pork chops would be a great idea.  It must have been on sale or something.  I can't think of any other reason why the insanity over took me (we aren't big pork eaters & #2 absolutely refuses to touch the stuff).

So, there I was with pork in the fridge and a "use by" date fast approaching.  They were lean and pretty and rarin' to go.  So what was a girl to do???  AHA!  Play with her food.  Fortunately, Red was ready and able to come to the rescue with a handy, dandy attachment.  THE MEAT GRINDER (suspenseful music plays in the background).   Oh, by the way, in case any one notices the pukey purple counters, I am so NOT IN LOVE WITH THEM.  They are on my list of things that need to go...  I did finally paint over the pumpkin baby dookie walls this fall (and no, I still haven't gone back and done the finish work and yes, the painters tape is still up... and yes, I know that is bad). 
Here is Red all dressed up and ready to go for a spin.  Isn't she pretty????  I LOVE her grinder attachment.  It's like a power tool for chicks!

I dragged her out of the pantry (I know that is so sad, but I don't have enough counter space to let her stay out all the time) and got ready for my play date.   Now, I am sure that some of you are catching on by now and may be wondering "hmmm, what is she going to do with that pork"?  Ok, I won't keep you in suspense!  I was gonna make me 'sum meat balls!

I had about 1.5 pounds of pork, which I cut into chunks.  I rummaged through the freezer and found my bread scrap bag (I throw bread heels in a bag in the freezer and save them for croutons, bread crumbs, etc.) -- grabbed 3-4 heels & shredded them (~2 cups).  I then chopped up an onion into large chunks and ran the pork, bread & onion using the large plates on the grinder. 


Kind of looks like worms, huh?  Or that Play Doh hair that extruded through the molds.  (EXTRUDE!  I love that word).  This is where the playing with your food starts to get kind of fun...  After all of the ingredients made it through the first grind, I added two eggs to the mixture, 2 tsp. of Italian Seasoning, 2 tsp. sea salt & 1 tsp. pepper and mixed them up really good.  I changed the plates on the grinder to the finer setting and ran the mixture through the grinder a second time.  Pretty cool, huh?  Now it looks a lot like the stuff that you get in those silly styrofoam packages at the supermarket (except, you get to control the cut of meat and the amount of fat going into your meal).

I took the mixture and formed them into 2" balls.  Da, da!  Pork balls!  Since I was trying to keep things lean, I baked them @ 375F for about 20 minutes (until they came through just about done in the center) - turning them over once during baking.  Since I planned on being a trickster and sneaking them into sauce for pasta & meatballs, I left them a little pink in the center so that they could finish off while the sauce was simmering. 

And what do you know?  PORK BALLS!  Here they are sitting in a pot of sauce.  This picture was taken mid-meal, so it's a little less pretty.  But, yum.  The left overs ended up being turned into open faced meatball sandwiches.   Excellent. 

The moral of the story is... it's ok to play with your food (especially when you get to make cool worm creatures in the process).  Sorry, mom - a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!


Recipe for "Pork Balls"
1.5 lbs pork (pre-ground or grind your own)
2 cups bread chunks (if you are not grinding your own, I would substiute ~1.5 cups finely shredded bread slices)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
2 tsp Italian Seasoning (or other blend)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.  Mix well.  Form mixture into 2" balls & place onto lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for ~20 minutes or until the interior is done (no longer pink).  Turn over at least once during baking.  Remove from oven & enjoy! 

The combination of lean meat & baking keeps this dish on the "lighter" side.