28 June 2013

Goal Wrap-Up

Warm weather is definitely here to stay for a while.  The garden is loving it, as am I.  Strawberries are finally ready (as of a week ago) so I picked up a slab of goat cheese for a really delicious snack.  It also really spruced up my salads this week - add some dried cranberries, walnuts and chicken over some homegrown greens.  Delish.
Check out the goal list for the month of June!  Things have been BUSY, but the best kind of busy.  I love summer.  Have I mentioned how much I love summer?  I really love summer.  And I’m a little sad that the first third of it is over.
  • Get the boat out.  Incidentally, I went on three boat rides and none of them were on my boat.  My boat launch has become a mess of mud, lumber and a silt fence, and launching the Sunfish has become nearly impossible.
  • Eat something from the garden.  Garden salads!  I’ve been eating them for like three weeks straight now and they are DELICIOUS.  Lettuce, arugula, spinach, radish greens, radishes, etc.  Also great with the aforementioned strawberries and goat cheese.
  • Farmers market!  It started slowly but surely, with just a few plants and herbs.
  • Read a book.  Read TWO books.   Count it!  Quitter by Jon Acuff and Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (picked up the 2005 edition at Goodwill! Score!).  Both are incredibly interesting and highly recommended. 
  • Go camping.  Well, I had great intentions to go this weekend and it just didn’t work out.  That’s not saying I’m NOT going camping this weekend, but if I do, I won’t be going very far.
  • Find a campfire and go enjoy it.  I did!  There were a few fires, in fact, with different people at each.   
  • Start some rhubarb wine.  Well, I chopped up the rhubarb I needed.  But then I realized I was lacking wine yeast.  I picked that up last weekend, so now I’m ready to start fermenting.
Well dang.  I feel pretty accomplished.  And I love that all of my goals had to do with either gardening or social events.  If that isn’t summer in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.  I should also mention that I attended TWO first-day-of-summer parties.  Neither of which were referred to as solstice parties.
So, Independence Day is upon us.  Last year’s was pretty epic, and I’m not sure this year can live up to that precedent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try!  

July goals:
  • Start up Stir-Fry Season with style – some homegrown summer squash, maybe even zucchini, peas, and dare I say some pear tomatoes (yes, pear.  I had heard of cherry, plum, and grape tomatoes, but this year we got some pear tomatoes to keep on the porch.  Apparently they turn yellow, not red)?
  • Recipe Round-up:  I’ve been blogging for quite a while, possibly even enough time to amass enough recipes to do a recipe round-up.  So look forward to collection of good summer recipes.
  • Camping is on the list.  Camping is always on the list when it comes to summer.
  • Ice cream from Tasty Treat.  There, I said it.  Sometimes you need to travel for the ice cream you love.
  • Exercise:  in typical summer fashion, I started being too busy with summer activities to keep up my workout routine, so it’s time to bring that back.  Now that it’s so light out in the morning, I’ve been naturally waking up earlier, so it’s a perfect opportunity.
  • Smoothies:  I froze a lot of fruit last year, intending to use it in smoothies.  As it turns out, I’m just not a big smoothie person when the weather is cold.  So I need to use up some fruit!
Have I mentioned how great arugula is?

21 June 2013

Mom's Rhubarb Custard Cake

It has occurred to me that I don't actually have the recipe for this one, so you can make this at your own risk.  How's that for a fun first line of a recipe post?  Anyway, I do have my mom's recipe somewhere, but I think you can get along without it.
Once again, the rhubarb season has probably left you behind, while here in northern Michigan, we haven't even started up our farmers market yet.  Feel sorry for me.  Warm weather only lasts three months here.
We chopped up 30 pounds of rhubarb - enough for two (5 gal) batches of wine.
I think you could probably do this with a box cake mix, if that's what sounded good to you.  Otherwise, pick your favorite cake and pour the batter into a 9x13 pan.  I used whole wheat flour.
Sprinkle with four cups of rhubarb.
Add 1 cup of sugar.
Lastly, top with 1 cup of milk.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Refrigerate leftovers.  Tastes delicious either warm or cold.
It really didn't need whipped cream, I just added some because...well, let's face it, it's an ugly cake.  And it is extra brown because I used whole wheat flour.
I have owned my DSLR for a full 1.5 years.  I almost never used the manual modes, because everything would come out with a blue tint to it and I could never figure out why.  While shooting this cake, I discovered some light settings, and my camera was set to "fluorescent."  Well, it's now set to "daylight," and hopefully you'll see some photography improvements now that I've discovered how to change the dang light mode.  Not that my lighting situation at home will improve at all unless I move, but, you know.  A girl can dream.

14 June 2013

Campfire Cast Iron Chili with Wild Leeks

The camping of yesteryear was pretty strictly hot dogs and tonka pies.  And while I still love a good tonka pie, camping as an adult has brought out whole new list of camp foods (feta-stuffed basil burgers, steak topped with bacon, onions and mushrooms).  A little bit of me feels like camping has become very food-centric.  A lot of me is pretty okay with that focus.
And when a friend of mine slow cooked some venison chili over a fire all afternoon...well, let's just say when you're camping and it's rainy, there's no nicer end of the day.  Compound it with some sharp cheese, a good IPA, and of course the company of your favorite friends.  Have I mentioned how much I love summer and camping?

Mushroom season.  It's over for most of you, but here in northern Michigan we've still got a few left.  Not that we found any, but whilst hunting, we did chance upon some wild leeks.  Or ramps.  Whatever.  Those are probably out of season for you too. 
 Best practice:  chop all your veggies ahead of time so camp chili is more of a toss-everything-together-and-simmer-all-afternoon type of deal.  Mediocre practice:  chop and put together when you're ready.  Worst practice:  realize you don't have everything you need, send some fellow campers home to gather more supplies, flip burgers with a machete in the meantime.  What, just us?
Here's where we deviate from normal chili.  You want a fire that's not too hot, and mostly coals.  You want the pot to be more or less right over top of the coals, whether that means moving the coals or moving perhaps a handy tripod that suspends your pot.  And, as always, start by sauteing the onions - 1 large red onion, 6-10 wild leeks.  I know the fire looks dead.  It's not.  It's very hot under there.
I added 3 lbs of ground turkey, 2 cans (shall we say around the 12 - 16 oz range?) of diced tomatoes, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1 large can of chili beans (probably closer to the 22 oz range).  Top it off with variable amounts of chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and some oregano.  A pinch of cinnamon, if it sounds good to you.
Bring the whole thing up to a simmer.  That's where you want to keep it.  If it's boiling, your fire is too hot.  If it's flat, your fire isn't hot enough.
It will sound like a lot of effort, but when you're camping, it really isn't as bad as it sounds.  I started the chili around noon and simmered it until dinner time no one could wait any longer.  I probably checked on the chili every 15 minutes or so, and kept an eye on the fire in between.  But I was also playing games, reading, and catching up on my beer quota for the weekend.  And if I was mid-game, there was generally someone else who could give it a stir in my absence.  It's a team effort!
It started out pretty thick, but by the end of the afternoon, the tomatoes had softened up into a nice, juicy chili.  I don't think I've ever described chili as juicy before.  What I mean is that it was the perfect consistency.  And although all the photos have been sans lid, a lid is very VERY helpful for keeping the ashes out.
Simmering for that long really reduces the flavor of the spices, so I did end up adding a pinch more cinnamon at the end, but this was definitely one of the best chilis I've made.  Absolutely worth the effort.
I know this chili isn't exactly a middle-of-August camping treat, but this was Memorial weekend in northern Michigan - nightly lows were hitting freezing temps.  So this chili is exactly what the weather was calling for.  Oh, and check out our new tent!  Pictured in the very cold morning light.

07 June 2013

June Goals

I didn't plan well today, so there won't be many photos.  Or maybe there will.  I'll have to see if there's anything relevant on my phone.
Random lunch from this month.  I keep saying I don't like dressing, but I've slowly started adding a spritz of extra virgin olive oil to my salads.  And lately, I've been adding some nice dijon mustard too.  So it's kind of inaccurate to say I don't like dressing.  But I digress:

  • Survive.  Actually, thrive.  I know I’ll survive.  I did - both.  I had a great time this month, and I don't feel like I was ever overly stressed.  Which leads right into the next goal:
  • Be realistic about stress. 
  • Spend a night in the garden.  Maybe plant some things.  Enjoy the sunshine and the dirt.  I did all these things too.  Actually, I spent two nights in the garden, and got the whole thing planted up with Amish tomatoes and peppers
  • I’ve got a budget that I haven’t been doing too well at.  Goal for May: stay within ten percent of my budget.  Better yet: under budget.  I still need to do some accounting before I make the final call on this one, but so far things are looking pretty good.
  • Blog once a week.  Despite being sans-internet at home, this one is accomplished.  My life is ridiculously different now.  I no longer waste time online.  Sure, there the occasional facebook bout, but I never manage to spend more than ten minutes on facebook anymore.  It's weird.  More or less, I check facebook and a few news stories at lunch, and that's practically the extent of my time online at home.

So, May was like the busiest month of my life.  I feel like I'm still recovering.  And, let's face it, summer isn't a time for working goals, it's a time for hanging out with friends and getting the boat out.  So let's make the June goals something appealing.
  • Get the boat out.  Not just mine.  I'm lookin' at you, Baneys and Boonzaaijers.
  • Eat something from the garden.  Yeah, it will probably just be some spinach or arugula, but it's a start.
  • Farmers market?  Does the farmers market start this month?!  Farmers market!  It's coming back, I'm excited, and I will be in attendance at some point this month.
  • Read a book.  Read TWO books.  
  • Go camping.  I actually squeezed some camping into May.  I should write a post about May.
  • Find a campfire and go enjoy it.  This campfire must be unrelated from the camping trip.
  • Start some rhubarb wine.  That's right, people, it's wine season again.
I made wine from a kit and it came with these labels. I brought the wine to a place where some of my not-so-mature friends were present, so I decided to class these ladies up a bit.  I think it's funny.  You probably don't.  I don't care, it's my blog and I can put whatever I want here.

Yay summer!