Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The "S" Word

Around here there's a four-letter word beginning with S that sends everyone into a tizzy.  No, it's not that word.  It's S-N-O-W.

People from east of the mountains laugh at news stories of western Washingtoners slipping  and sliding our way around our streets.  But we actually have cause for panic.  Snow events are relatively rare around here, so even though most of the state's population is on this side of the mountains, most of the equipment to deal with snow is on that side of the mountains.  For example, Yakima County has 32 plows in the unincorporated county servicing a population of around 89,000.  Where I live, there are 33 snow plows serving a population of over 300,000.  So as you see, we don't get much coverage when it does snow.

So I find the best thing to do is watch the weather reports, and stock up on supplies to get us through until the snow melts.  Which is what I'll be doing this week, as there's a threat of snow on Friday and Saturday.  Mr. E claims that the "S-word" must be threatened three times before it actually does snow.  Personally, I'm not taking any chances.  If I'm ready, it doesn't snow, if I'm not, it does.

You see, it's not that I can't drive in the snow, it's that there are so many idiots in huge trucks where I live that think that 4WD means go 50 in a 35 zone on a steep hill.  I like my car, and I don't want (another) idiot totalling it.  So I'll stay home, thank you, and do my running around on Thursday.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The weather is gorgeous right now.  It's about 60 degrees and sunny, crystal blue skies.  It's days like this that make me absolutely love fall. 

Today I'm wrangling Thing 2 into helping me bring in the rest of the apples.  I took a turn around the garden just now, to see what's left to harvest.  It looks like a deer ate a bunch of my carrots, based on the hoof prints in the carrot bed.  There are quite a few holes where the carrots should be.  There are beets that need to be harvested/eaten.  I need to find some recipes to use them up creatively, since my family seems to have an aversion to beets.  Not that they've had them that much, and when they're snuck into something, like a salad, they say "Mmm.  What's this stuff?"  Anyway, the good apples need to come in, the bad ones composted.  I should've done it sooner, since we had this good stretch of weather, and it would've been best to get a fall coat of fungicide on the trees.  Well, I'll be ready for the next day of dry weather.

Other things in the garden include scallions.  They'll survive the winter, and it's nice to not have to pay a buck every time I want a few scallions in something.  I also have some parsnips.  They didn't really get going until the fall rains came.  I'm not sure if that's because they were too close to the apple tree, or if that's just how they grow.  Next time we have beef stew, one will get tossed in the pot.  The fall planting of spinach was a disaster.  It just didn't grow. 

I'm going to get a soil test done early next year.  Frankly, I'm tired of things not growing, so it's time to figure out what's going on.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cleaning House

I know that spring is the traditional time for cleaning your house, and in the days of heating with fireplaces and coal, it made a lot of sense.  The amount of dust made by our wood stove is enough to drive me nuts, and it's not running all the time.  By the time spring arrived, I'll bet the interior of the house was in need of a major wash.

These days, with central heating and vacuum cleaners, I find that our house rather needs a cleaning in the fall.  During the spring and summer, I'm too busy outside in the garden to bother much with keeping the house super clean.  With the kids back in school, and the hectic end-of-summer racing around over, it's time to clean up and clear out.  Friends are more likely to want to be inside, rather than out on the patio, so it's time to get the dustcloths out!

The other day I cleaned out our big freezer.  Boy did it need it.  I tried to do a minor cleaning out of old food a few months earlier when my in-laws freezer died, and they brought some stuff to keep in my freezer.  But this time I really got down the the bottom of the shelves, finding really old blueberries, and beef stew meat with freezer burn.  I used to try to use an inventory list, but inevitably I couldn't find that last package of hamburger. 

I'm doing better, I think, to simply keep things in designated spots.  The top shelf, for instance has blueberries, bread and cheese.  I will not put these items on any other shelf, and since they stack nicely, it's easy to see how much I have left.  Other things don't stack nicely, like big bags of chicken breasts, but I find that they will stand up on their side on the bottom shelf.  Then it's more like books on a library shelf.

I'm also not stocking too much of anything anymore.  If it's more than a couple of months' worth, it'll either get lost, or have yukky freezer burn (if it's meat).  DH swears the taste of chicken is off fairly quickly, so I'm not buying too much of that at a time. 

How do you keep your frozen food in rotation?  Do you prefer spring or fall cleaning?  Or somewhere in between?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Baking season

I tend to think of seasons in terms of food.  There's soup season, salad season, apple season, strawberry season.  Right now it's baking season.  After not using the oven much all summer, I'm ready to make breads, pies, cakes, cookies, and roast meats and veggies.  After a stormy week, I was in need for a little sunshine in the form of coconut macaroons.  Mmmmm.  I'm not quite into holiday cookie and gingerbread season, but I'm getting there.

Oh, last night hubby and I went out to Brouwer's, and I had the yummiest hard cider - Ace Pumpkin Cider.  It doesn't taste like pumpkin, more like a mulled sweet cider, with a hint of fizz.  I wish I could find some bottled somewhere....  Looks like it was hugely popular, and they're planning on making lots more next year.  That's a good thing!  Someday I'd like to try homebrew hard cider.  We certainly have enough apples for it.

What's your favorite food season?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I came across this recipe at a grocery store.  It was really yummy, although the original recipe was a bit spicy for my family (and we really like spicy food).   I think the key is to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to taste, because the amount of heat in curry powder can vary wildly.  I have very hot curry powder, so the combination of it and 1/2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes was too much.  I'm giving the amount here as half that.

Curried Winter Squash with Apples

2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups winter squash, peeled and cubed
1-1/2 cups diced onion
1 baking apple (Granny Smith, Johnagold, etc.)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter

Mix together curry powder, salt and red pepper flakes in a large bowl.  Mix in squash, onion, apple and olive oil.  Pour into a large shallow baking dish.  Roast at 375F for 40 minutes.  Mix in butter, and roast 5 minutes more.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Our first frost arrived yesterday morning.  It was a couple of weeks late this year and was very light.  Oftentimes it's in the mid 20s during trick-or-treating, but we barely managed 30 this time around.  Tonight colder weather is supposed to move in, dropping the snow levels in the mountains, and "winter" will settle in.

For fun, I'll check the DOT cameras for the weather in the mountains.  What's the snow level like?  Is it at Stevens Pass (4000 ft) level?  Snoqualmie (3000 ft)?  Or below that?  I also can tell based on where the snow line is on the mountains out east how low the snow level is, once it's below 3000 feet.  Or, checking the Doppler radar with snow or rain/snow mix color enhancement is fun, too.  Hi, my name is Kristi, and I'm a weather geek.  It's been 45 minutes since my last weather fix.

I cleaned out the furnace filters as I do the first of every month.  I hope for a warmish day because I have to run them through the dishwasher, and of course the furnace isn't on during that time.  Last December our furnace gave out completely.  We took advantage of the tax credit and had a high-efficiency model installed.  I find it interesting that our gas usage hasn't dropped a bit, considering that our old model was only 80% efficient.  I need to have it tuned up in December, so I think I'm going to ask some pointed questions when they show up.

Tonight we're having Buttermilk Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, and curried apples and squash for dinner.  Comfort food for a cold day.  DH is going to stand in the rain at the soccer game, and I'll bet he'll be chilled and soaked through when he comes home tonight.  He might opt for leftover Gulaschsuppe (goulash soup) instead.  Both heat up well.

I'm conserving wood for our stove right now.  I haven't found a source for firewood yet this year.  I need to hurry up, because we only have enough for a couple of weeks, less if the power's out.

How do you stay warm? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Well, it's been just about a year since I last posted to this blog.  I've truly missed writing.  It's one of those things that I need to schedule into my day (along with everything else).  So what's new?  Well, I've had a few successes, some failures, some plans come to fruition, and others that were hopelessly overoptimistic.  So, the usual, I guess. 

Thing 1 and Thing 2 grew like weeds this last year.  I purchased the first "men's department" clothing for Thing 2 the other day.  I think Thing 1 is mostly done growing.  At almost 6'3", I certainly hope he is, because otherwise finding clothes will be even more tricky than it already is.  Jeans in 31-34s?  How about a dress shirt for 15-37?  You get the idea.  We don't need "Big and Tall", we need "Scrawny and Tall".

I am currently making Thing 1 a nice, it-better-last-you-for-ten-years-so-you-better-take-care-of-it sweater.  I actually had it finished, or so I thought, but the sleeves were too tight once I sewed it up.  The pattern was a bottom-up body, but top-down sleeves, and it just didn't fit right.  So I frogged the sleeves, and am reknitting them bottom up.  I have one done, and about six inches (of 23) on the other finished.  The sleeves should attach to the sweater better as well.  The odd thing is, I made the same pattern in a smaller size for him several years ago, and it worked out fine.  Strange.

I didn't weigh out all of the produce from our house this year.  Spring was extremely cold and wet, and I was so disappointed by June, that I just didn't bother.  There simply wasn't much to harvest.  The mice got into the few potatoes and carrots that I had, and the early beets, spinach, and lettuce simply didn't grow.  The rabbits totalled the peas.  With the exception of the cherry tomatoes, which were a full month late to harvest, I had maybe a half dozen tomatoes off of a dozen plants.  Talk about dismay.  I managed one butternut squash from my plants, and some small oddly-shaped acorn squash.  Strangely enough, the cucumbers did relatively well, and I pickled many quarts.

I did manage to can several quarts of applesauce.  Enough to get the family through the winter and into strawberry season, I hope.  I also purchased two boxes of peaches, and canned those as well.  22 quarts should hopefully be enough.  I was hoping to buy a couple boxes of pears as well, but didn't see any at the time.  Nor was I smart enough to buy out the only guy I found that sold pie cherries this year.  I did make lots of strawberry jam and some pizza sauce, though again from purchased fruit, and I'm now trying my hand at making mustard. 

I'm still making my own sandwich bread, and occasionally fresh pasta and spaetzle.  I found a new to-die-for recipe for an apple batter cake, and an easy BBQ pork sandwich recipe that I'll share soon.  It's a good thing the rabbits have disappeared, because I was seriously thinking hasenpfeffer might be on our table this fall.

I guess that's it for today.  Back soon to add more.