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Monday, March 25, 2013

A New Keg and Potato Bacon Jalepeno Soup

It's been a little cool today- high 50's and only a little sun this morning.
We ran out of beer last night...bummer! We usually go through about a 'pony' or quarter keg of a local brew every other month or so. We tend to gravitate towards either robust IPAs or Brown or Red Ales...we like some bite with our brew, so to speak. Probably the same reason I drink a French roast or Italian roast coffee.
So, today, we had an errand to run. We headed over to The Creamery/Klamath Basin Brewery. It's a very cool building was an actual creamery back in the day. It's been converted to a great local brewery and also a casual restaurant/pub.
The menu featured a "Potato Bacon Jalepeno Soup" that sounded perfect on a cool day like today. Unfortunately, they RAN OUT when we wanted to order a bowl. Argh. So after picking up a pony keg of Crystal Springs IPA we headed home, and I came up with a pretty yummy recipe for my own soup.
 Since I still have a pretty full bag of huge, beautiful jalepenos and another quarter bag of small red, yellow and orange peppers, I decided to just roast them along with some onion chunks. The jalepenos are leftover from the pig turds we smoked yesterday- cheese and sausage stuffed jalepenos wrapped in bacon and smoked at 250 for 1.5 hours- incredibly good!
While the peppers were roasting, I diced 4 slices of bacon and rendered the fat.
When the bacon was crispy, I used a slotted spoon to remove the crispy bits and left the fat in the pan.
When the peppers were done, I peeled, stemmed and seeded the peppers and tossed them into the bacon fat, along with the roasted onions and 3 smashed cloves of garlic, and 3 chopped stalks of celery. I let this cook until the veggies were tender. Then I added about 3 1/2 cups of peeled and diced red potatoes and let it cook for a few minutes.

After a couple of minutes, I added 4 cups of chicken broth. I always have chicken broth in the freezer, so I warmed it up while everything else was cooking. I brought this to a boil, then lowered the heat to let the potato-veggie mixture cook. 
When the potatoes were tender, I used my immersion blender to make a smooth mixture. I added one cup of half and half to the mix and blended again for a couple of minutes. I added some salt after tasting, and then, it was done!
OK, there isn't a picture of the soup, topped with bacon and a little cheddar cheese. I forgot to take a picture and we gobbled it down so quickly that I had to take a picture before I put the rest of the soup in the fridge for lunch/dinner tomorrow :)
Smoking hot, but not burning...just spicy and tasty!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tomato Soup and Salad Dressings

Monday was another cleaning day...but in the back yard. The chickens were running around having a good time, and Kevin and I decided to start on a couple of backyard projects.

Last summer, we installed a sprinkler system in the back yard (we did the front yard the previous year) and when we used a trencher to cut the grass to put the pipe in, it really tore up the grass. It hasn't quite recovered, and between the chickens scratching through the loose dirt to find bugs, and the snow, the edges have deteriorated into one long mud run along the patio. So, we went off to Home Depot. 5 bags of garden soil later, Kevin had filled in the uneven patches and started new grass seed.
I decided to start pulling some weeds, and I also transplanted some overwinter herbs. We are rotating crops this year and I needed more room on the side garden for TOMATOES!!!!
As we sat in the sunshine later in the afternoon, I was thinking about tomatoes and decided to make some of that absolutely delicious Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup by Ina Garten that I blogged about back in September.
I ended up using the cherry tomatoes I froze last fall, removing the skins by using my food mill.

We also had a salad with the soup, using some fantastic salad dressings I made on Saturday. I read a wonderful blog called An Oregon Cottage, and I used her recipes for three fantastically delicious salad dressings. If you want to make your own homemade Ranch, French and Vinaigrette dressings, here's a link to her site An Oregon Cotttage: Homemade Salad Dressings

I also made Kevin a grilled cheese sandwich, using sourdough bread and a mix of Havarti and Medium Cheddar cheese. OK, I couldn't resist- I had one bite!
It was a wonderful meal after a wonderful day!

St. Patrick and Spring Cleaning

We have had such lovely weather that I have begun my Spring Cleaning. You know that little urge that nudges at you when the sun starts to shine- and  then you can see the streaky and dirty exterior of the windows? That desire to open all the windows to air out the winter stuffiness in the house- and then you can see all the dust that has accumulated on the screens? The feeling that it's time to break out the short sleeve shirts- and you look at all the projects piling up in the closets? Yes, it means it's time to do a deep clean and get ready for the flash of Spring we have in the Klamath Basin!
It was also St. Patrick's weekend (His feast day is March 17th) and Kevin was gone all day Saturday. He volunteered to cook for the biggest annual fundraiser for the Knights of Columbus- the Corned Beef Dinner and Irish Music Sing-Along. So, I had the house to myself-well, with the dogs and chickens- and I dug in and started cleaning.
I was excited to use some new cleaning products that I bought through a company called Norwex. The company is all about healthier cleaning without the use of harsh chemicals. The primary ingredient used to clean is...water!
Anyhow, I was able to get all of the exterior windows on the back of the house squeaky clean and streak free! I think I'll wait to start the dusting of the Knick Knacks until next weekend. I have started a garage sale pile, though. One step at a time :)
In the meantime, I started our corned beef for Sunday Dinner.

Kevin bought a beautiful brisket at Diamond S Meats. I know I've written about this great meat market before- they cut all their own grass fed beef and they use their own corning mix to make 'corned' beef.
I rinsed the beef and added it to a baking dish. I added some allspice, peppercorns, 4 bay leaves, 1 sliced onion on the top and bottom and an entire head of garlic. I added 16 ounces of Crystal Springs IPA beer, which is what we currently have on tap in the kegerator, and 3 cups of water. I also added a splash of Tuallamore Dew Irish Whiskey and covered it tightly with foil. I baked it for 4 hours at 325. I was perfectly tender!
On Sunday, I topped it with a glaze of 3 tablespoons of "Buzz" Hawai'ian 'Winter Mauka Blend' honey and 3 tablespoons of  Monastery Mustard . I finished by broiling it. Yum, yum, yum!  We also had of course, potatoes and cabbage. I fry the cabbage in a little oil and hot pepper flakes and add a splash of vinegar just before serving.

Oh, and of course, corned beef hash for Monday Breakfast....
topped with a backyard freshly laid sunny side up egg!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fridays in Lent...Shrimp Burgers

We decided to make some shrimp burgers for dinner tonight. I had some frozen shrimp that needed to be used up pretty soon and we are tired of fish sticks!

I have blogged about Rachael Ray's Shrimp Burger recipe's REALLY good!
I have made some changes to make it even my humble opinion.
It's sort of paleo...yes, I added breadcrumbs since it does kind of fall apart if you use the original recipe.
Here's the original- which, by the way is pretty good...Rachael Ray's Spicy Shrimp Burgers
And here's MY version...
1/2 lb. of cleaned and de-veined shrimp
1/4 cup of chopped bell pepper (I used red, yellow and orange)
1/4 cup of chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp. Phillips Seafood Seasoning (or, Old Bay)
1/2 tsp. salt -only if you use Phillips- Old Bay has a lot of salt in it!
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. of sambal olek ( or chili garlic sauce, or rooster sauce aka sriracha sauce)
add all of it to a food processor and process until everything is chunky and comes together.
Get a cast iron skillet medium hot and add 1/4 inch of oil. I used grapeseed oil. Drop 4 blobs of the shrimp mixture into the oil and gently press into a round burger-ish shape. Cook for about 3 minutes, flip and continue to cook for 3 more minutes.(if you have extra, like me, because you don't measure- just put some blobs of shrimp mix between either parchment paper or wax paper and pop into a freezer ziplock bag and then, gently squeeze the air out and freeze. These are good for at least 6 months. )
Serve on buns with lettuce, tomato, homemade tartar sauce (with homemade mayo!) fresh seasonal veggies
like- asparagus...
and sweet potato fries. Well, Kevin hated the fries. He does not like sweet potatoes, but he did give his sweet potatoes to the Yorkies....I ate mine. I LOVE sweet potatoes! This is my plate...
And, Kevin had a hamburger bun. Not me!
The Tartar sauce is a grand total of:
1/2 cup of homemade mayo
3 home canned dill pickles chopped very fine
1/4 cup of very finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
the juice of one Meyer's Lemon from our lemon tree
mix well in a blender or food processor and then, let it set for at least an hour. You can keep this for at least a week and it will be DELISH!!
Hope you like this!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Papam!

I thought I should write something about our new Pope, Francis.
I think I'm going to like him.
He is a Jesuit. (yes, I do love that order! St. Ignatius of Loyola, you rock!)
He is a champion of the poor. (um, like St. Francis)
He is a simple and humble man who cooks his own meals and takes public transportation. (St. Francis, again!)
He is from South America.
He paid his hotel bill out of his own pocket after being elected Pope.
He told a little joke when he first spoke to the entire WORLD.
He prayed for the past Pope and for US and gave us absolution from our sins and an indulgence as his first act as Pope.
Yes, I know, he is a conservative as far as Church teaching is concerned, but the Cardinals can't be anything but conservative in Church doctrine or teaching, or they won't chosen as a Cardinal or elected Pope.
I know a lot of people who are not Catholic who don't understand, and many Catholics don't understand, but you can't be elevated to the position of Cardinal unless you are an ardent adherent to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I'm a little surprised that anyone expected anything else.
BUT-He is ...different.
At the first Mass he presided over as "Pope" he said , "Preghiamo"..." Let us Pray". And then, he paused, and prayed with his eyes closed. Then, he realized he had said it in Italian (not Latin) and said, "Oremus".
He has already broken with protocol for a Pope.
I think he's going to clean up the Curia, and he will be a reformer.
We will see.
Holy Father- just don't ignore and exclude all those who are marginalized, those who think the Church has abandoned them, those who disagree with some Church teachings...because of their conscience.
As for me, and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring has Sprung and Chickens!

So, the girls are enjoying the false Spring weather we are having here in the Klamath Basin...taking over the raised bed planter...
I'd like to plant some golden beets next week, but until Kevin gets a new cover to keep the frost and chickens away, I think i will have to wait!
They have slowed down on the egg production. I'm getting about 2 eggs a day right now. I guess they are screwed up with Daylight Savings Time, too.
My dear friend, Lu Murphy, has been watching the antics of my chickie-girls for one full year! Their first birthday was March 1. She knows how I worry about them in the freezing cold, have heaters for their coop and water, and let them in the house to warm up now and today she surprised me with a 'chicken sweater' for the girls!
I brought it home and tried it on Foggy (Foghorn Leghorn) our Leghorn Hen who is at the top of the pecking order and the most friendly....
Yah, she didn't like the sweater. This is the sequence of what happened...I put the chicken sweater on her, tied it under her crop and about 15 seconds, it was off.

 Kevin said, "I told you,it would be a bib instead of a sweater.". I also tried it on Moa, since the other chickens have been picking on her (oh, how the times have changed! She was top chicken at one point) and she untied the ribbons in about 3 seconds and shrugged the sweater off. I couldn't even get the camera out to take a picture, and she had it untied and off!
So, I guess, the girls won't wear sweaters.
Sorry, Lu. It was a great idea if  you have cooperative chickens! My girls are far too spoiled to wear a sweater. I think they want to move back in the house. Sigh.
at least, we are going to have nice warm weather for the next 10 days or so.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Last of the Hawai'i pictures...

I wore my kukui nut lei to Mass & Religious Education Classes today. It reminded me that a week ago was our last night in Hawai'i. Kukui nuts are very useful little items...they were used as 15 minute 'candles' because of their hard shell and high oil content by the ancient Hawai'ians. The paste of the seed is a traditional ingredient in 'poke', it can be pounded into a paste that is like a soap, the charred nuts are used as an ink for tattoos, and leis are made from the polished seeds, too. The Kukui tree is the state tree of Hawai'i. Ya learn something new everyday!
Anyhow, we spent our last night in Kona at the Kona Islander Inn.

 This was a really pretty place! It's made up of individually owned condos that are rented out like hotel rooms. The top picture is the view from the lanai on Rich & Aarah's room and the bottom is the view from our room.
We had an amazing sunset to see on Saturday night.
And I took a pretty cute picture, too! So did Kevin :)

This is a photo of Rich and Aarah together! We loved our time with them on this beautiful Island!
On Sunday before we flew out, we went to a white sand beach just north of the Airport in Kailua, Kona.
It's a private golf community, with a public beach. It was absolutely beautiful. Yes, I could live here.

We drove to the airport afterwards and said good-bye to Hawai'i. I did buy a Plumeria and White Ginger plant to plant in the house (of course) so I can remember the scents that so captivated me! I'll post pictures if they sprout.
My only complaint on the whole trip is that in spite of all the fruity little cocktails I drank, I never got a drink with an umbrella in it.
While in the airport bar, waiting for our departing flight, we of course, had a drink. I was lamenting the lack of an umbrella in my drink to the bartender. She popped a umbrella into my pinot grigio and made my day!
Farewell, Hawai'i! We will be back! I hope you all have enjoyed the pictures and blog about Hawai'i as much as I have enjoyed actually visiting the Island!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

13 of 20 micro climates in the world...Hilo area

We made a trip on our 'round the island' drive to the Hilo Area. It's not really representative of the entire area, since we only really drove through Hilo. OK, after 6 hours in the car, we were pooped out. Can ya blame us??

There are 13 out of the 20 micro-climates in the entire world on the Big Island and we visited most of them...Hilo is the rainforest and cloudy area.
These Banyan Trees are not native...but these particular trees were planted by famous people back in the 30' Amelia Earhart.
We went to the famous Rainbow Falls.....OK, it was cool, but it was in a residential area and there were lots of bugs. I wasn't too impressed.

And I was kinda unhappy I got bit by a did Kevin, and Aarah! Bad show, Hilo, bad show. But it worked out OK since Rich and Aarah carry some kind of miracle skeeter bite stuff that makes it all good. No huge swollen lumps (since I am allergic to bug bites- no epi-pen, but it's not fun) just a tiny reminder of my visit to the rain forest.
We arrived back at Rich and Aarah's to find a freakin' CENTIPEDE!
This one was dying...they get the house sprayed on a regular basis, so the critters are all dying when we actually see them...he's pretty ugly. If he bites you, it will hurt like hell. Thankfully, we didn't get bit...argh! 
 This was our dinner that night...a nice thick fillet of fish, with garlic, EVOO, pepper flakes, salt and pepper on the grill for 3 minutes per side, along with broccoli tossed in olive oil roasted for 15 minutes in the over and some fresh sliced tomatoes from the garden...YUM!

 And, more wine on the lanai. It was a good night. The view from the Hasse Home....just hanging out.