28 February 2014

Return of the Revenge of the Polar Vortex

February is such a short month.  And yet, it feels like it's been such a long time since my last goals post - for instance, snow sculpture seems like forever ago!  Probably because I stayed pretty busy this month.  We've been to Sleeping Bear Dunes in the summer - this year we decided to try it out in the winter!  The wind and cold were brutal, but the photos are unbeatable.
But hey, let's whip through those goals:
  • Get the photobook ordered.  Done and done!  And it should arrive today!
  • Go through my clothing and get rid of the stuff I don't wear. Um yeah.  I'm sure you saw this coming - didn't happen.
  • Win first place with our snow sculpture.  We're so good, we got first AND second place! 
  • Bottle the peach wine.  Okay, so this isn't exactly done, but I have it stabilized and backsweetened so it's ready to go.  
  • Make a nice warming soup to survive the revenge of the polar vortex.  Check out this Szechuan hot and sour soup - it's sure to warm you right up.
Okay!  So let's make some March goals:
  • I've got two books I want to read - I'm hoping to get through them in March.
  • In honor of this week's Return of the Revenge of the Polar Vortex (sounds like a bad Syfy remake...) I've got another tasty soup recipe!
  • Plan out my garden!  I'm a little behind on this game - gotta get those peppers started!
  • Quick jaunt down to Indiana - as long as the weather doesn't interfere, we've got a quick family trip planned.  I hear the menu is Mexican!
  • I started doing Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and I am SO sore.  I'm hoping to work my way through levels 2 and 3 this month.
Goals out of the way, let's get to the photos!  Let's start with the sculpture.  It's still standing and I have a feeling it will be up until April or May.
Kyle and I went for a walk on one of the sunny days this month and I snapped this shot with my cell.
And while we were out for a walk, we were stopped by a photographer for the local newspaper.  This is what we get for going outside on the first sunny day in a long time.
In case you missed it, I made some awesome cupcakes for my friends gender-reveal party.
As a Christmas present from my parents, the whole family went to see a hockey game and partake in some fun post-game activities.
So that brings us to SBD.
The landscape looked and felt like Mars - barren, hostile, unforgiving.
The ice shelf was a testament to how violently the waves are driven into the shore.
At the same time, the formations were phenomenal, and the waves breaking inside the ice caves were amazing to watch.
The sun peeked out from the clouds occasionally, but there was nothing warm about it.  However, it really brought out the color of the water.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip that I hope to never do again - at least not when it's that cold and that windy.

Update:  stupid polar vortex...

07 February 2014

Szechuan Hot and Sour Soup

The crappy roads and car-scraping every morning are getting old.  In an act of desperation, I started searching for a good winter soup.  I don't typically go for Asian dishes, although I've been trying more and more.  After reading the ingredients to this soup I decided to try it.  If winter is getting you down, this soup will definitely warm you up!
A wonderful collection of veggies, mushrooms and chicken, this soup is spicy and tangy.  So...hot and sour.  Just like the name says.  Go figure.  It has a lot of ingredients, but the majority of them are kitchen staples.
This was the first time I've ever added an egg to soup.  Is there a trick to it?  Do you need to wait a bit before you start stirring?  Is stirring vigorously not the right way to go?  I think I overblended it, and the egg is really shredded.
Hot and Sour Szechuan Soup (adapted from this)
  • 2 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 c mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 green chilis, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. carrots, chopped
  • 8 c. chicken stock
  • 3 c. cooked chicken, cubed
  • 1/2 c. bamboo shoots, julienned
  • 4 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs chili sauce (I used chili paste - nearly the same thing)
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 4 tbs vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 4 tbs cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c. green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1.  Heat the coconut oil and saute the mushrooms, chilis, pepper, and carrots until the mushrooms have shrunk.  Add the stock, the chicken and bamboo shoots and heat up.  Simmer for ten minutes
2.  Add the soy sauce, chili sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Simmer for five minutes.
3.  Mix the cornstarch with 4 tbs of water.  Pour mixture into soup and stir well.  Stir in the eggs.
4.  Garnish generously with green onion and cilantro.
And now for a continuation of last week's saga!  The finished product: a snow mitten, also known as FIRST PLACE!
The "paint" (food coloring and water, applied via spray bottle) turned out really well - it stayed pretty bright for the first couple days after we applied it.  On day 2, the sun even came out!
And here are the artists posing with their sculpture.  Not that you can tell who any of them are due to bundling up against the bitter coldness.
On the last day for registration, there were only two sculptures signed up - but they were offering three prizes!  Figuring we were going to be out in the cold anyway, we signed up for a second sculpture.  It's a (semi-)functioning skee-ball game.  Second place!
And here's third place.  It's an Easter basket, with food-coloring-frozen-water-balloon eggs.  It was pretty awesome before it snowed and kind of filled in the basket.
After a week in the snow, some spicy warm soup was exactly what I needed.  Give it a try!