Friday, June 27, 2008

Pig Pork Pig

Soooooooo: as dedicated readers may remember, I have long lamented the lack of a Vietnamese restaurant here in Asheville. Set loose in a city with proper culinary credentials it’s what I’ll ask for first, just in front of a real bagel and some dim sum and a trip to a bakery with a reputation for classic ham and gruyere croissants. As such, in an effort to stem the tide of my grief regarding this gastric tragedy know as the greater Asheville area, last May I bought B. a really snazzy Vietnamese cookbook: Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen. It’s full of gorgeous colorful pictures and above all the writing is lovely and descriptive and tremendously inviting (and she’s always telling you not to worry if _____ happens, which is sort of nice when the pan in your hand is spitting and hissing like it’s about to scratch you and leave you for dead). The end result is that there’s a lot to read for some recipes but you’re left well prepared. Anyway, here's one of my favorites: Caramelized Minced Pork. This dish required Caramel Sauce, or Nuoc Mau, which is an ingredient in easily a third of the recipes in this cookbook so making it is the first step for this dish. But don’t worry! It’s really quite fun to make; lots of popping and bubbling and color changing and slight burning and you make enough to last you for quite some time so you won’t have to do this often.

Caramelized Minced Pork (Thit Heo Bam)

1/4 cup canola oil or other neutral oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds ground pork, roughly chopped to loosen
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons Carmel Sauce (see below)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 scallions, chopped

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for about 5 minutes or until fragrant and soft. Add the pork and poke and stir to break it into small pieces. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the meat has lost most of its pink color.

Add the fish sauce, caramel sauce, and sugar. Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 10 to 12 minutes stirring frequently and breaking up any remaining large pieces. As the meat darkens, monitor it carefully and stir constantly to prevent burning (slight popping and sizzling is normal). As the cooking intensifies the bottom of the skillet will darken with tiny dark brown bits; at this point lower the heat to medium to steady the browning. Keep stirring to coax the meat into browning a bit more – when it is a beautiful reddish brown it is done.

Remove from heat and stir in the scallions. Transfer to serving dish or shallow bowl, leaving behind any excess fat. Let meat sit for 5 minutes to darken and crisp up before serving over white rice.

Caramel Sauce (Nuoc Mau)

3/4 cup water
1 cup sugar

Select a small heavy saucepan with a long handle. Choosing one with a light interior (such as stainless steel) will make monitoring the changing color of the caramel easier. Fill the sink with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the saucepan.

Put 1/4 cup of the water and all the sugar in the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. To ensure that the sugar melts evenly, stir with a metal spoon. After about 2 minutes when the sugar is relatively smooth and opaque, stop stirring and let the mixture cook undisturbed. Small bubbles will form at the edge of the pan and gradually grow larger and move toward the center. A good 7 minutes into cooking, bubbles will cover the entire surface and the mixture will be at a vigorous simmer. As it cooks, the mixture will go from opaque to clear.

If the sugar crystallizes on the sides of the pan, don’t worry. After about another 15 minutes the sugar will began to caramelize and deepen in color. You will see a progression from champagne yellow to light tea to dark tea. When smoke starts rising, around the 20-minute mark, remove pan from heat and slowly swirl it. Watch the sugar closely as it will turn darker by the second; a reddish cast will set in (think the color of a big, bold red wine) as the bubbles become a lovely burnt orange. Pay attention to the color of the caramel under the bubbles. When it is the color of black coffee or molasses, place the pan in the sink to stop the cooking. The hot pan will sizzle on contact. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of water to the pan; don’t worry, the sugar will seize up but later dissolve. After the dramatic bubble reaction ceases, return the pan to the stove over medium heat.

Heat the mixture until caramel dissolves into water. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes before pouring into a small heatproof glass jar. Set aside to cool completely. The result will seem slightly viscous while the flavor will be bittersweet. Cover and store the sauce indefinitely in your kitchen cupboard. Makes about 1 cup.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jocon, Or What to Do with a Tomatillo

Sooooo, in a former life about a million years ago I used to manage a small Latin Caribbean restaurant. The place was run by an extremely high volume super mercurial man from Algeria and I believe that part of my compensation involved not declaring my tips. The restaurant ran on a shoestring, and busy evenings were prone to total disaster: missing dishwashers, a bartender unable to remember whether Malbec was a red or white wine, the realization that every single spoon was out on the floor and everyone at a table of ten had just ordered soup. By the time the evening was over everyone still standing was usually something of a wreck. I think I considered myself pretty miserable at the time, but looking back there were a lot of sweet things about that place. A phenomenal trio of musicians took over the front of the restaurant on weekends, I got to speak Spanish to patrons and employees alike, and the backend of the restaurant was run by a smartypants chef who had a Phd in something like primate studies but preferred slaving over a roaring grill to lecturing undergrads. He was witty with the puns, even-tempered for a chef, and above all, his food was phenomenal. Like seriously incredible, from the salsa that graced every table to the desserts. There’s a Latin Caribbean place here in Asheville that we’re pretty fond of, but just a few weeks ago I made the mistake of ordering one of my favorites from my old friend’s menu and there was just no comparison. Le sigh. Anyway, if you are knocking around New York City, last I heard he was cheffing over at the Rocking Horse Cafe - his Chile Relleno de Hongos will knock your pants off and it looks like you can get them there.

For those of us in the rest of the world, we’ll just have to wing it, and for a while now I’ve been trying to hunt down a recipe for one of my favorite dishes from the restaurant: Pollo en Pipian Verde, sometimes referred to as Jocon. Basically a chicken and tomatillo affair, it falls into the category of delightful things to eat that challenge the palate to identify the ingredients. Me, I love this. Jocon, as it turns out, is not hard to make, but even after eating it religiously for about a year of my life I struggled to figure out exactly what ingredients were in the sauce. Fun!

Jocon, Or Pollo En Pipian Verde

Chicken (Forgive me a short fowl rant: a lot of recipes for this type of dish tell you to buy different parts of the chicken: a few thighs, some legs, a pair of boobs, etc. In my humble opinion, this leads to something of a rip off – for the price of two boobs you could have purchased a nice whole bird. If you go the whole bird route you will not only end up with a lot more (affordable) meat, you’ll also have a lovely mess of bones and such to make stock from. You will likewise not be contributing to the boob-centric poultry craze that, well, don’t get me started but if you do know that my rant will end up in several impoverished countries whose poultry industries have been decimated by our practice of selling our dark meat there for very cheap. Anyway, my habit with these types of recipes is to simmer the whole chicken with whatever additions seem to go with the recipe at hand and then pick the chicken down to the bone once it has cooled. I will admit that this approach means that you don’t simmer the bones and such with your actual dish but I guess I’ve made my peace with that. End of rant. And yes, I always call them boobs, it makes the meat counter people giggle.) So yeah, you need a chicken for this dish, in whatever form you prefer. Simmer it in water until tender, save this broth.

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 2/3 cup tomatillos, hulled and chopped
4-5 chopped chiles, preferably Serrano
5 cloves of garlic roughly, chopped
1/2 of a largish white onion, chopped
3 corn tortillas chopped, soaked in water, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Toast the sesame and pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat till lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove to a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder.

Add sesame and pumpkin seed powder and all remaining ingredients to a food processor or blender. Add 1 cup of the broth and process till smooth.

Return chicken to large pot. Pour over green sauce and add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of remaining broth to bring to a sauce-like consistency. Heat over medium-low flame and simmer an additional 15-25 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve, ideally with rice and beans. Even better the second day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Hey there! It's true, I am not really here. I am probably sitting a on a porch somewhere eating something. Or maybe wading in the ocean. Or giggling with my mum about who did exactly what at the wedding. But when I moved the blog here from over there where it used to live, a lot of my favorite recipes did not make the cut because moving old posts was a Very Annoying thing to do. So while I am gone, I (think) have set this here blog to spit out some food stuffs.

First off: chocolate pudding. Everyone should have a chocolate pudding recipe up their sleeve for the emergency chocolate craving or super fast dessert you can make when you forgot and then remembered that you have company coming for dinner. This is a "pot-de-creme" style pudding, meaning it is seriously rich and amazing but doesn't take as long to make or use 1000 egg yolks.

Chocolate Pudding, from the Tartine Cookbook

1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Have a fine-mesh sieve ready over a large ceramic bowl that contains the chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Combine milk and cream in a heavy saucepan and heat to just under a boil. While this is heating, combine cornstarch and sugar and sift in the cocoa, whisk until blended. In another bowl whisk the eggs with the salt until blended and then add this to the sugar mixture and whisk until well combined.

Slowly add half of the hot milk and cream mixture to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan with the rest of the milk mixture and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture has visibly thickened (208 on a thermometer if you have one, but don't sweat it if you don't as the thickening is rather dramatic). This should take 5-7 minutes depending upon how cold your eggs are.

Immediately pour the contents of the pan through the sieve (don't fret here if it suddenly looks like you have made the lumpiest pudding ever). Let the heat of this mixture melt the bittersweet chocolate. When it appears to be mostly melted, blend with an immersion mixer or your trusty whisk and some elbow grease. Portion the pudding right away, let cool. You can serve this room temperature or chilled, and I like it with a dab of unsweetened whipped cream on top.

Note: use the good stuff in the chocolate and cocoa department or this will be a rather average chocolate pudding.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cherry of a Time

Cucumber blossom.

Oh wow. What can I say here that I haven't already said? Not much. Just a lot of love and excitement over here. Ready to get to Maine, ready to see my family and the people I love, ready to get married, ready to vacation along lakes and in canoes and around full tables and under new stars. And ready to have the part of my brain back that has been thinking about this for months now. It's a wee bit tired and I think it's causing me to be especially lousy at typing and trail off in the middle of sentences. When I was a kid I used to give my mum the hardest time about doing that, and mum, are you out there? I get it now.

In an attempt to keep from going totally mad over the weekend, we wrangled our ladder into our tiny car and set off to scavenge cherries off of trees planted on public land. It was ridiculously fun. Picking cherries is already fun. But picking them for free up on a ladder in back of a parking lot somewhere is just especially fun and sneaky. We picked 10 pounds of cherries in no time (which, I know because we now own this, another awesome wedding gift that I freakin' love and so far have used way more than I ever thought, including at times for a postage scale, bonus!). We picked several different kinds; some sweeter like a bing and some tart like a pie cherry. I wish I knew what they all were. This whole Bing or Ranier cherry duopoly is just not cool, I know there is more to life as a cherry eater than that. All of the kinds we picked were fairly small. Upshot being: we pitted cherries for a damn eternity on Sunday morning. Holy pits. My left thumb is sore. By the time we were finished our entire kitchen looked like this:

Cherry juice everywhere! But we pitted them all and lived to tell the tale, and now there will be cherry pie in the dead of winter, what a treat. Anyone have any favorite cherry recipes?? Speak now.

Anyhoo folks. I am going to peer into the depths of this blogger thingy and see if I can't post some recipes while I am gone. Grow well, eat well, see you on the flip side.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tomato Kids

Oh people. I am bursting at the seams with excitement over here. Today is my last day at the library, then Monday at my other job, then points north for us. Crazy.

We broke down and bought some wire to make tomato cages with. Mean beefy thick concrete reinforcement wire that left B covered in orange rust after he wrangled them into cages. But now our tomatoes are duly supported unless they top five feet, in which case they can just head back down. All three have baby tomatoes cooking up in there, and so far I have been diligent about 1) watering at the base infrequently but deeply 2) spraying weekly with a worm casting and aspirin tea and 3) spraying weekly with Serenade. I must say that they look pretty durn strapping, and I for once in my life gave each plant plenty of room. It is kind of hard to know that I will be away from the garden and the chickens for three weeks – so much will happen then! We lined up a rockin’ house sitter who is especially thrilled to hang with the chickens though, so I know it will be fine.

Ok. Have good weekends out there.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Easy Peasy

Fresh peas in my favorite Diana Fayt bowl.

Ok, first: all that about the pressure cooker being an easy disaster free experience? Scratch that. I decided to cook beans again, and I don’t know, I guess that last time I just waited a really long time before opening the lid because I didn’t do anything special and all was fine. This time I must have only waited about a half an hour, and I opened the lid and immediately exchanged introductions with a roiling wall of wicked hot water that hit my midsection without so much as a warning shot. Man. I spent the rest of the afternoon with a yogurt container full of frozen chicken stock on my belly, and now I have a huge burn in roughly the shape of Italy on my stomach. I have burned the be-jezus out of my hands and arms before, but this real estate is new. I called my Gran and she told me the part about slowing releasing the pressure by turning the pressure dial down. Aha! She probably told me that last time and I didn’t write it down because it was so logical. Righty-o.

Food things. It’s been so hot here that we have been eating salads and smoothies like crazy. We are all about putting almonds in our smoothies. It’s the bomb, you must try it if you are smoothie person. But B braved the heat the other day and made homemade falafel, since we were all woo-hoo about our hummus and the only Mediterranean joint around here does not fry their falafel to order which is So Wrong. I don’t know where he got the recipe, but they were totally knockout, full of parsley and garlic and rolled in sesame seeds as per my request ‘cause that’s how my favorite place in SF did it. Oh man. Anyway, not to leave you with all that yumminess and no recipe, this is what I make when the peas are on, which they sure are in our garden:

Heather’s Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, cooked*
3 carrots
1 onion
1 red pepper
As many peas as you got
Sesame oil
Salt and Pepper
2-3 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Chop veggies. Ok, enter the freak: what size the veggies are really matters, I swear. Onions: halve the onions, then cut into thirds long ways, then slice finely shortways. You want to get one inch strips of onions. Carrots: in half long ways, in half again long ways, chop to be less than a quarter of an inch thick. Red pepper: into thin strips, which again get chopped into thirds. Sorry for the lack of photo on this, and yes, I have these strong size feelings about everything I cook. It’s all about getting the right ratio of things on the fork, you know it!!

Anyway. Heat sesame oil over medium heat. Throw in onions, add salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne in amounts that fit your tastes. Sautee until almost translucent. You may need to add a little oil as you go along. Add carrots. Sautee for 3-4 minutes, add peppers, sautee 2-3 minutes, add peas, sautee until peas deepen slightly in color, just about 2 minutes. Turn heat off.

In large bowl, combine sautéed veggies and quinoa, mixing thoroughly. Adjust seasoning (keep in mind that the feta will add some salt). Ideally now you let everything sit until it’s room temperature. When that happens, or when you Just Need to Eat Now, add chopped mint and crumbled feta cheese.

Note: this is fantastic with fresh corn; I add the corn in with the carrots. Also, I don’t think this salad keeps very well; the mint gets a little tired. So it’s great for a potluck or hungry bunch.

* This is how I cook quinoa: two parts water, one part quinoa, bring water to a boil, add quinoa, let return to a boil, turn heat to low, cook circa 20 minutes – I don’t know for sure how long, I just keep an eye on it. Also, I have made this salad with brown rice and it was also very good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rain and Races

Well hello there blueberry!!!

Holy sudden hotness, it has been out-of-the-gates-in-a-hurry hot around here. Early this week we were in the mid-nineties. What the heck is up with that?? Man. The chickens were not psyched about it, and the garden, despite a good long slow watering there in the middle, was lying all over the place by midday every day. Droop, droopy, droopiest. It’s also caused my basil to bolt, thank you very much. This has not been a great basil season around here. I had to plant the seeds twice, and the second time we did get some germination but now they are just these tiny little sprouts that refuse to grow. And then the starts I put in have bolted. Yeesh. Everything else is pretty happy though, so I will just have to resign myself to less than 5 gallons of pesto. Anyway, the heat broke with a hell of a storm yesterday. I love love love a summer storm. The best part was that our rain barrels were full in no time. In fact, upon coming home and discovering them full while it was still raining, I began filling buckets with water and watering the blueberries and fruit trees. My neighbor down the street was like, “what the heck, it’s raining and you’re watering?” And I was like, “No time to talk! Rain barrels full!” I am the crazy lady, oh yes I am.

Broccoli. I love getting to eat the broccoli, but in truth I grow these for the greens...

So, as you guys probably already know, we live in North Carolina. I have lived here for over two years now, after a long and lovely time out west, mostly in San Francisco. I picked North Carolina for the mountains (this West Virginia girl finds flat places to be itchy) and because there were lots of other folks here interested in playing fiddles and banjos and things. And because I got a job here. I came to North Carolina once for fun, twice for job interviews, and once to find an apartment, and then all of a sudden I lived here. Somewhere probably in between the interview and the apartment hunting, I thought to myself, “I guess I should look up my elected officials” and proceeded to squeak out loud when I realized that Elizabeth Dole was now one of my duly elected Senators. After hanging around in San Francisco and Portland, I was a little shocked to say the least. North Carolina is an interesting place. We have a Democrat for a Governor. Both of our Senators are Republican, and I think I’m correct in saying we have not gone blue in a presidential election in 32 years. Western North Carolina recently elected a Democratic Representative of sorts after a very long tenure under a Republican. Hillary won big here in Western North Carolina (all counties in WNC except the one I live in), although Obama took the state handily the results here in the mountains illustrated more of his “Appalachian Troubles” in action (the west side of this state is mountainous, the larger eastern side gets divided into the Piedmont and the Coast). Suffice to say that November should be interesting around here. I’m of course interested in the big prize, but I’m also really interested in this race – Dole has her first serious competition in years, and Hagen is right behind Dole in polls despite dealing with a serious lack of name recognition when she first started campaigning. Anyway. If you know anyone in North Carolina, make sure they know that this race is in play.

Friday, June 6, 2008



We made it! It’s Friday! People, the countdown is on over here. I have exactly six days of work left to go before we head off on one hell of a vacation. One with a pit stop for a wedding and all of that. Have I mentioned here that we are going to Nova Scotia? And that I’ve never been there before? As much as I love, love, love going back to my favorite places (New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland) I equally love heading off to points unknown. And I have always wanted to go to Nova Scotia. And we get to take a ferry (please, please, let the waters be calm…my oldest friend on this planet is out there reading this and giggling because she watched me get ghastly seasick somewhere on a boat headed for Ireland…very, very ghastly indeed). Anyway. Suffice to say that I am having serious trouble concentrating on any one thing for very long.

Fortunately I work with very nice people who so far have been completely understanding of my mental state. In fact, my library people threw me a fantastic surprise party yesterday which absolutely knocked my socks off. Lotsa good food, three homegrown bouquets, a beautiful plant, and get this: a spendy gift card to a hardware store. Which killed me, because evidently there was a raging debate about whether to give us a gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond (oh my god just thinking about going there gives me hives) or the store with all the chainsaws and hammers and paint scrapers. Tee hee.

Ok, the last chicken introduction of the week: this here is a chicken, one of two, that we have had a hell of a time naming. She’s a Rhode Island Red and we have two of her; so far we can’t reliably tell them apart from one another. There have been so many naming attempts and none of them have stuck. Right now we are calling them The Rubies, but I am not sure if that’s going to work either. They kind of need a group name, since telling them apart is annoying. Any suggestions out there? We collected a ton of great chicken names from all of our friends, but none of them are doing the job. As it turns out, naming a chicken takes some work sometimes. Anyway, these are our dopey girls. We think that they might have been a little younger than the other chicks, as their wing growth was always just a step behind everyone else. They don’t exactly get picked on, but it’s clear that they are usually a step behind the pack. They get the end of the roosting pole, if you know what I mean. They sure are pretty though, two little redheads. Just for kicks, here is one of them just a few short weeks ago and then again a few even shorter weeks before that. Holy cotton balls, they were so tiny then!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Scooter Times

Ok, wow, I am a posting freak this week. So much excitement! How ‘bout those Painted Lady Runner Bean blossoms above? I knew they were going to be lookers, with a name like that, but even so. It’s all I can do to keep from smooching them myself.

Two asides before I get to the reason I am posting anything: one, if anyone anywhere is going to be doing anything having to do with making cheese, just remember that you can’t do it with ultra pasteurized milk. Cheese making is the new frontier over here kids, and one can waste a lot of milk before one’s girlfriend comes home and sweetly informs you that the ultra pasteurized milk is the reason your paneer is not going on. Right.

Also, I just installed this new thingy on this website and now I can see what Google searches lead people here. Woah. Fascinating. And scary. How ‘bout this: “Crops grown in the medieval times which aren't grown anymore.” Umm, gosh, I guess I wasn’t very much help on that one. Let’s try another. “Once avocado is put in fridge is it ok to eat it once sitting out?” Thanks for asking! I’m going to go with yes, you can go ahead and eat that dang avocado as long as there’s nothing green and blue and fuzzy on it! Here’s another awesome question: “Do bugs grow in wet laundry?” Well, I would submit a qualified yes on that one, dear reader! And my latest favorite: “How to plant poke weed close to your house, and eat it when you wont.” Wow! Hey! Don’t touch that poke weed! Seriously, don’t eat those shiny berries, even if you wont [sic] to. Woah.

Ok. Anyway. I am really here because I am super excited about our new scooter. B and I sold his car, which was a very nice old Jetta that never stranded anyone anywhere, but was not cheap to fix and not really very fuel efficient. We still have one car for picking stuff up and long trips, but our second set of wheels is now a scooter. Let me first break the bad news. It’s *not* this scooter:

I have to say that lusting after a Vespa was kind of a new experience for both of us. New big mechanical toys just do not exert much of a pull on me or B. I do see some old cars on the road that I would love to drive, but I don’t think I’d ever sign up for one for a myriad of reasons. My car is practical and cheap and I’ll say it: thoroughly ugly/dorky the way all newer inexpensive cars are. Whatever. But these Vespas. Oh man. We wanted one sooooo much. There was a powder blue one in the engine size that we were interested in, and every time we went to the store I’d sit on it and B would tell me how cute I looked. Torture. They are, in case you don’t already know, crazy expensive. But someday, I’m telling you, someday.

Anyway, the scooter we *could* afford will win no style contests, but she runs like a champ; you can hang with the traffic without taxing the engine, she gets over 80 mpg, and insuring her was practically free. I was totally unprepared for how much fun it was going to be to drive it. I do, every now and then, think, “Oh shit, I am going 45 miles an hour on this thing!” And so then I freak a little bit and slow down. I do that on my bike sometimes, going down really steep hills. But then you just quash that fear and ride on, so it goes. And just for the record, I have already ridden B around because I told him straightaway that I wasn’t always going to be the girl on the back. I do kind of get why the smaller person would be on the back though, since when you brake the bigger person nearly smooshes the smaller person off the seat, but hey, I’m scrappy and I can hang with that. Anyway, here’s our girlie:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Easy on the Peas

So I planted two kinds of peas this year: Oregon Sugar Pod II and Tall Telephones. I couldn’t remember which was which, but I thought that one was a garden pea and the other was a snow pea, meaning one for shelling and one for eating shell and all. So the peas are growing, growing, and frankly, we’re just eating all of them when we’re out there working and suddenly it occurs to me that neither of these are looking like a shelling pea. So I email the people I got my seeds from and asked whether maybe I had accidentally planted two kinds of snow peas, and the hilarious lady on the other end of the email was basically like, “Umm, chances are that you are eating your peas before they have a chance to plump up.” And what do you know? We laid off the Tall Telephone ladies, and sure enough, they are getting right fat. Lesson learned. But just for the record, they tasted just fine, shell and all. I am thinking about making this, although I don’t really like pasta dishes without a lot of stuff in them. Hmm. Anyway.

In further weekend excitement: the rain barrels had the moves put on them by Mister B, and we are full steam ahead on the water collection project. I fully confess that I was inside baking a birthday cake while he did loud difficult sounding parts like cutting a six inch hole in the metal lid (loud here people, very loud). B is not a strident, swearing sort of man, but I daresay that Rain Barrel Number One very nearly made him grumpy. But Rain Barrel Number Two, with the addition of a different sized circular drill bit thingy, was over in a hot minute. Up they went, one in front and one in back, and then as luck would have it, we got some rain that very night! Oh my good lord, we were in and out of the house every five minutes to see if any rain was going into the barrels yet. Which at first it was not. I think it takes a while to build up or something (plus B said that our gutters had a lot of leaves in them, but not anymore as of yesterday, thank you very much). So we were all Very Concerned for a while, but then after a while we heard a plonk, plunk, plonk sound and sure enough: water in the barrels! A note: B said that most of the how-to information out there is about plastic rain barrels. So if anyone out there is having a go at this with a metal barrel and wants some help, give a shout.

And just for the record, he even removed the labels. Because he is the man of my dreams and is annoyed by peeling labels as much as I am.

So chickens again. Here are the three other contenders for Head Chicken: Reepicheep (she’s not so snuggly these days), Big Dot, and Little Dot. Reeps is a Buff Orpington, and the Dots are both Silver Laced Wyandottes. They are the big girls of the flock. The Dots somehow manage to be kind of in charge without ever trying. I think they might be really cool or something. For example, every night they all fight about how they are going to line up on the roosting pole; everyone wants to be in the middle where it’s warm and safe. And some of the girls kind of freak out about it, attempting to hop up on one end and then walk over other chickens and squish in between. This sort of coup rarely works, usually there is a lot of peeping/squawking and someone(s) fall off, etc. and then it starts all over. Anyway, the Dots don’t play around. They just get up there, get tucked in, and let the dust settle around them. And somehow they are always in the middle. Reepicheep doesn’t play it quite as cool as the Dots, and we think she might have lost a lot of street cred on the first night that we put the chicks outside because she was the biggest baby about being afraid of the dark (seriously hilarious and heartbreaking, just running around like crazy peeping like mad until we’d turn the flashlight on again). But she’s big and smart so she’s still in the running for now.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Weekend Fuzz and Chicken Introduction

Baby peppers!

Oh my good lord people. Weeks of non-stop go around here pretty much smacked my ass down this weekend, so I am not even sure what the hell I did for the past few days. Lesse, I got my haircut and now rather than carrying around a 9000 pounds of hair I only have 4000 (not shorter, just thinner). We threw a party. I went to a house concert to hear my uncle’s band. I took a nap (I am a terrible napper, so this is very newsworthy, trust me). We moved the chicken coop so they would have fresh greens. I made this cake, which was so damn good that I got only two, yes you heard me, two bites of it. I am always way too in the running around mode at our parties to remember to eat my cakes. So we have a new party rule: cut Heather a Piece of Cake and Hide It for Later. It was B’s birthday and I was charged with making a pie that used our new fancy shmancy wedding KitchenAid mixer. I clearly took liberties with the request, because this cake is so not a pie, but when B. says pie he really means fruit and it was a big hit with my man. For those heading down this road: we both thought that the medium grind cornmeal was still too coarse. I would definitely go fine grind, I am not into the crunchy action. Everything else about it was perfect (oh, wait, I also added almost a teaspoon of nutmeg to the cake part because everything is better with nutmeg), especially the moment of truth where you whack your big cast iron pan upside down, wait five minutes and then reveal this glistening mass of baked cherries. Only *one* stuck to the pan, I was so tickled. I took a picture but it was too shiny and this cake really isn’t shiny.

Anyway. As you can see, I am still somewhat out of it. Can I also just mention that we are about to get married? It’s less than three weeks away, and we are both so unflapped that I feel like we’re forgetting something really, really big, like food, or what to say, or invitations to one side of the family or something. Oh well, if so we haven’t remembered it yet. It’s gonna be one fun party; all my favorite west coast babes are coming and all of our families and some really old friends. Whoohoo.

So, chicken introductions. As it turns out, chicken portraiture is kind of tricky with a crappy little camera. But since I sit out there for hours anyway, I just snap away and then delete most of them. Today’s featured chicky: Rhodie. Rhodie is actually an Ameraucana. But when they all arrived, we thought she was a Rhode Island Red, thus the name. Whoops! She is sooooo pretty – her feathers are an incredible steely blue color. I have no idea if this means that she’ll lay blue eggs, but she is a breed that lays colored eggs and thus they are called Easter Eggers sometimes. Rhodie was easily the craziest one right out of the box. At this point Gonzo has given her a run for her money in that department, but when they were babies Rhodie was the queen of rushing around like mad, smashing into things, pecking, poking, peering. And she hated being picked up. I could be upstairs with two doors closed and would hear her complaining if B. grabbed her. She is one of the four chickens who are making a play for Head Chicken; she is smaller than the other three contenders and so on one hand I am rooting for her because she’s scrappy but on the other I am not because I think she might be kind of a power tripper kind of Head Chicken whereas the other bigger chickens kind of seem like they might be benevolent rulers. God, did I just say all of that about my chickens? Umm, right. Ok, so there you go: Rhodie – one down, six to go.