Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happiness: A 2010 Project

I had seen a blog posted on Slate this past year called "The Happiness Project". I had read a few post here and there, but didn't really look into it in depth. Of course, at year's end, I finally took a closer look. Gretchen Rubin started the blog about trying to increase personal happiness. She has her own website with a whole happiness toolbox. Quite a few people have joined to work on their own personal happiness. In fact, she is even recruiting people to get involved with a more specific happiness program in 2010.

I thought this was quite interesting, especially as we approach the new year, when everyone starts working on those dreaded New Year's Resolutions that most of us fail at time and again. If you think about it, all New Year's Resolution are about increasing our personal happiness. Whether our resolution is to lose weight or spend more time with family or spend time on "me"- the end result should be in our being more happy about ourselves. Of course, we almost always "fail" or lapse in our resolutions just a few weeks or months into the new year. We make all sorts of excuses - the most common one being "I don't have time."

I think it is pretty sad that we are essentially saying "I don't have time be more happy." What a way to go through life, huh?

Ms. Rubin has a "Happiness Manifesto" on her website and encourages others to create their own manifestos. Of the several points in her manifesto, these stood out the most to me.

To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.
I like this because it doesn't buy into the fallicy that being happy means that you don't go through those tough days. You will have bad days. Also, it stresses that feeling happy and feeling right are not necessarily the same thing. One can be right and not feel good about being right. One can feel good and be very wrong. The point, I believe, is that being aware about your feelings and why you are feeling them provides you with a window into yourself. This will help you to deal the the bad days better, provide you with a guide for how to feel good, and check that your feelings are what you think they should be.

You're not happy unless you think you're happy.
Ms. Rubin uses this as a "fake it til you feel it" motto. That is all well and good. I think this goes more to awareness. I think we've all been in situations where we may have started out in being unhappy and suddenly realized that we were happy.We've also had those situations where we suddenly realized "I should be happy right now, but I'm not". Both of those situations require awareness.

The days are long, but the years are short.
Yes, we've had those bad days that seem to go on forever and ever and ever. We often dwell on them - bemoaning our wretched state, lamenting our mistakes, rehashing the sordid details until they are mush. But, we turn around one day and all of a sudden we realize "Wow, it's been 5 years since...." "Where did the time go?" "Has it been that long?" So, is it really important or necessary to dwell on each detail of the day? Or do we shake it off and look ahead? Like Anne Shirley (of Anne of Green Gables for those who may not know) says - "Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it."

Think about yourself so that you can forget yourself.
Put in the time and energy on you when you need to and then you can just let go and be you. You aren't sitting there stressing about what you are doing wrong, what you should be doing, etc. This is SO much easier said than done. I think women especially have problems with this one.

Ms. Rubin talks about setting goals but she believes that they should be specific goals if you really want to increase your happiness. So instead of saying "I want to spend more time with my family", you might say, "I will set aside the 1st Wednesday of the month as Family Night." Instead of saying "I want to exercise more", you might say "I will go for a 10 minute walk before lunch everyday." These are much more manageable and more concrete. You know very clearly if you have achieved the goal or not.

To that end, here are my goals that I have set out for 2010 in an effort to improve my happiness:

Do a blog post at least 1x per week - even if it is just one line.
I have gotten all worked up over not having done a blog post for a while. I've also done the "I have nothing to write about" lament. By doing at least one post a week, I will no longer feel bad about not doing a post. By allowing the post to be one line if necessary allows me to "not have anything to write about".

Do a major cleaning (ie overhaul) of the house 2x this year - one in the spring and one in the fall.
I have complained for years about the how messy the house gets. We get those Asian Lady Beetles everywhere. The dust bunnies add up. We are visited by rodents. I will beat myself up for not doing a better job with cleaning (even though I do clean every week). I have realized that sometimes my cleaning is more lax than other times. Also, there are some chores that I have a tendancy to not do. By setting up major cleaning sessions (and doing them), I provide myself with the time to devote to those tasks. I ensure that I will have at least 2 times during the year when I can look around the house and not lament its state of cleanliness.

Work out times for visiting family.
It seems that Husband and I always feel like we should be spending more time with our family. Since doing so requires a lot of time and travel, I think we need to work out some times in order to do so. I know I feel much better when I have a schedule and a plan on how to get things done. I know it is nice to simply "drop in" sometimes, but I will admit that doing so happens too rarely.

What about you? What would be some of your goals towards increasing your happiness in 2010?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

And I'm Baaaacccckkk! And Merry Christmas

Ok, I was going to post this on Christmas Eve. However, our internet went down on Wednesday and didn't come back until tonight. Talk about withdrawl! So, I am posting the post that I had intended to post Christmas Eve. I know, I know - I haven't posted since October. Add "be more consistent with blog posting" to my New Year's Resolution List. Here we go!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

This Christmas has not turned out exactly as I would have liked. Due to Snowpocalypse 2009: The Christmas Edition, we were unable to have family down for Christmas Eve dinner. Alas! It also looks unlikely that we will be able to meet up with more family on Christmas Day. I suppose it is my own fault, really. I wanted a “White Christmas” and well, I got it. I only wish this power worked on the lottery.

This was to be the first Christmas Dinner that I would host. I have to admit that I was really looking forward to it. It was going to be a hodgepodge of my family traditions, Hubby’s traditions, and some new ones we would start ourselves.

So, here we are, snowed in at home with a whole lotta food and only the two of us. For those of you who could not make it, here is what you will be missing:

One 14.5lb ham, served Alton Brown-style. This means scored skin (to release the fat) then slathered with mustard and brown sugar, covered with ginger snaps (in this case, thin homemade ginger cookies) and spritzed with bourbon. Then it is baked til a nice crust is formed.

Creamy mashed potatoes. This is done with my Dad’s potatoes (he’s a potato farmer), riced with a potato ricer, and mixed with heavy cream and butter. There is ham gravy to go over the top.

A winter salad. This is made with bitter winter greens, olives, roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, nuts, cranberries, fresh goat cheese and topped with a dressing of good olive oil and local apple cider vinegar.

Grandma Clara’s Peppermint Dessert (sorry - no photo). This is a dessert from my childhood. My grandma made it every year and I love it. It is also really easy. It is powdered peppermints (in a food processor) folded into a pint of whipped cream. This is mixed with half a bag of puffed up marshmallows (done in the microwave with a bit of milk) and chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts). The mixture is poured into a pan that has been filled along the bottom with graham cracker crumbs. The concoction is frozen. You serve it by cutting out squares. These are minty squares of deliciousness!

Rommegrot. Yes, I grew up having rommegrot for Christmas. I also grew up having lutefisk for Christmas, but that is a tradition I am willing to let go. However, I love rommegrot (or as my husband dubs it “sweet wallpaper paste”). I occasionally get butter to separate out of the mixture, but not always. I don’t care though – a bowl with some melted butter, cinnamon and sugar and I am home!

Raisin-Eggnog Bread Pudding. I wanted to bring a new dish to the table. The Hubby had mentioned possibly doing a bread pudding and so I went onto the trusty interwebs to find what was out there. I came across a recipe for Raisin-Eggnog Bread Pudding at this blog. The recipe looked simple enough and quite tasty. There was even a link to a homemade raising bread recipe. The raisin bread is mixed with eggnog, eggs, sugar, brandy and rum. The top is sprinkled with nutmeg. I’m very excited about this.

Lefse. I don’t make good lefse. I have tried and failed. Crispy lefse is not a good thing. Luckily for me, there is a woman near here that makes excellent lefse. I have stocked up with her lefse. Yay lefse!

Christmas Cookies. I was a little lazy in the cookie department this year. I only made spritzes and ginger cookies. Perhaps in the future I will be more ambitious. However, since you can see I already have 4 other sweets on this menu, I figured that this would be enough.

What has been very nice is that we’ve been able to visit with some of the neighbors. One couple stopped by yesterday with cookies, banana bread, and homemade eggnog. It was great, because we were going to head over to visit them and bring them some 2009 Nocino. We sat around and talked while drinking some Tom and Jerry’s (mixed with bourbon and rum) while snacking on nuts and chippers (potato chips covered with chocolate – this is VERY good – you must try it!).

Today, another neighbor came by to help us clear out our driveway. We have a little lawn tractor with a little plow on the front. However, it only can handle about 2 inches of snow. Anything above that and it really just spins its wheels. Our neighbor came over with his tractor and big snow blower and cleared out the driveway in about 10 minutes. He came in for a drink and conversation and we gave him a bottle of 2009 Nocino. He said that he would come by tomorrow (we are supposed to get another 6-8 inches of snow tonight into tomorrow). It’s great to have fantastic neighbors!

Finally, I acknowledge that I have been very lax in updating this blog. Ok, lax is an understatement. How about completely off the grid? Anyway, we’ve been doing a lot of good eating since my last post (in October!) and I hope to catch everyone up with what has been going on between then and now. Also, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more consistent with my blog postings.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Fall Festival on the Farm

Last night we had what we hope is the first of many Fall Festivals on the Farm. It was a great afternoon/evening. After weeks of cold, rainy, gloomy weather, the sun came out, the air warmed up slightly, and it ended up being the perfect day for a party.

First you need to know how this came about. The Husband has a tendency towards grandiose ideas for parties. Unfortunately, in the past, he has tried to pull them off on a few days notice. Having voiced his desire for a Fall Festival in the past, I felt some planning in advance was called for.

We got our pig from a local farm, Highview Pastures. It was pasture-raised, Berkshire cross.

The owners were wonderful. They promptly answered all our questions (and boy did I pepper them with questions and request), opened their place for a visit, and delivered the pig to us. They even brought us extra pig offal (they had processed another pig at the same time they processed ours).

The Husband took the party as an impetus to get some things done with the pole barn - our party location. We now how power to the pole barn (yeay) and we were able to organize and clear out a lot of things. In addition, we bought some 30 bales of straw to use at the party and later for our chickens and the dog (I hear straw is the best bedding for dogs during the cold, cold winters).

So, let's return to the day of the party.

Our friend, the Pig Roaster Extraordinaire, showed up way before the butt-crack of dawn (before 5am) with pig roaster in tow. The Pig Roaster Extraordinaire (or PRE) had some culinary tricks up his sleeve. First, there was stuffing the cavity of the pig with a mix of sauerkraut and apples (and a secret blend of spices). PRE expertly stitched up said pig and the pig was rolled up in a wire mesh to facilitate easy flipping throughout the roasting process. PRE also brought a special basting liquid, again with a special blend of spices, which was liberally applied to the pig on each flipping (done on the hour).

The Husband and I worked to get the pole barn ready for the party. It is always the case that all this work gets pushed and crammed to the last minute. Aside from the Christmas lights in the rafters, we spread out several bales of straw, set up the tables (some bought, most rented), and made sure all things were ready for the apple tasting, the homemade canned goods swap, and the pumpkin pie contest.
We set up a kids activity table with small pumpkins to paint, some wood pumpkin and autumn leaf cut outs to paint, paper, paints, and crayons.

The pig was absolutely fantastic - so juicy, tender, and lots of flavor. I will admit: PRE, the Husband, and I helped ourselves to an ear and the snout well before any guests arrived. PRE even made a pate from one of the livers for lunch (and a side dish for the buffet table). We got buns from Brick Oven Bakery in Northfield - a rustic French, an Oatmeal, and their signature Minnesota Rice.

The apples for the apple tasting (and the cider) were from Pepin Heights Orchard in Lake Pepin. We had 6 different varieties: Honeycrisp, Cortland, Prima, McIntosh, Green Gold, and Haralson. The favorite of this year's festival was the Honeycrisp. Next year, we hope to have a SweeTango.

We had 4 pies entered in the pumpkin pie contest - all vying for the coveted 2009 Walnut Nocino. We ended up with a tie between two of those pies. Every judge said that all of the pies were very good, but each was very different from any of the others. They had such a hard time deciding. In the end, a blind draw between the two winners determined who went home with the nocino.

We had so many people attend: neighbors, Guard friends, people the Husband knew from high school whom he hadn't seen in years, friends from Kantorei. There were smores, which were a big hit with the kids. It was a great time. Husband and I pretty much passed out upon hitting the pillows. Now, after a bit of rest and recovery, we're looking forward to next year's festival. I'm thinking a wild game festival...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Joan Baez

Last night, I watched American Masters on PBS. This episode was about Joan Baez. I have to admit that I slowed in my channel surfing only because a) there was nothing else on - can you tell we don't have cable or satelite? and b) Joan Baez is a musician. I've known OF Joan Baez, but I guess I had pretty much thought that I knew what she was about: peace, folk music, and the 60s.

I have to say that I was drawn into this look into Joan Baez's life. I got a better understanding of why she got involved with the activism that she did. I learned that her family were Quakers - thus she grew up learning non-violence. As a young child, she challenged the things that she thought were wrong. As a senior in high school, she protested the school nuclear drills because she felt the were ineffectual and served no real purpose.

It seems that she got into the folk music scene quite by accident. She had taught herself the guitar growing up and sang with one of her sisters (Oh, how I can relate to that!). She tried college (well, more was attending college on paper) and got playing in the right town (Boston) at the right time. She ended up on stage at a folk festival and poof! She was christened Queen of Folk Music! If only it was like that for the rest of us!

Whether you agree with Joan Baez's political philosophies or not, I think you should at least admire her steadfastness to her convictions of non-violence and peaceful protest. This was a woman who walked the walk - not just talked the talk. She was walking with the protesters in the South working for racial equality. She spoke out against war (whether past or present). She has put herself in dangerous areas so that she could see for herself what was going on.

One thing that I think present protesters (whatever they are protesting for or against) miss something that I saw in Joan Baez. Joan would protest not by shouting or slandering. She didn't resist any law enforcement presence. There were no signs with hateful words. She would say her piece softly but strongly. She understood that she was making a statement and that in order for it to have any power, she had to do it peacefully and respectfully. When she got arrested, there was no dragging her heels or trying to be a dead weight. There was no yelling or taunting of law enforcement. She went quickly and quietly with law enforcement and went through the process.

As a singer, Joan's voice is very iconic. You hear a song that she is singing and you immediately know that it is her. Perhaps because I am a fellow soprano with a fairly light and quick vibrato, but there is something comforting in her voice. I admit that I don't have any of Joan Baez's music myself, but perhaps I'll have to rethink that now.

What about you? Is there a person (musician or not) who had an impact on you in some way?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thousand Hills Cattle Company Open House

I just got back from the Thousand Hills Cattle Company open house event and I had to do a post. For those who don't know, Thousand Hills Cattle Company is a grass-fed beef producer that is based out of Cannon Falls. The Husband and I really like their beef. It has a much better flavor than conventionally raised beef and it has a lot of other benefits, too. I learned much more about those benefits at the the open house today.

The day started off at Grandpa's Garage in Cannon Falls. We met with Todd Churchill, the head of Thousand Hills Cattle Company, who spoke throughout the event about what they do and why the do it.

First we picked up the obligatory swag. I really liked the MN Cooks calendar, so I had to pick that one up. Then, we introduced ourselves (there were about 20 of us) and said why we were there today. I, of course, said that I love food and that my husband and I were very interested in the local and sustainable food movements.

We had grass-fed beef hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch.

It was great to have a hamburger that was not well-done. The burger was very flavorful with a nice char and very juicy - but not so juicy that it rendered the bun a soaked mess. The hot dogs were also excellent - a lot more robust flavor than any national brand hot dog with a more dental texture. The skin didn't have a lot of crispness (I like to have a bit of snap), but the flavor more than made up for that.

Todd spoke a lot about the benefits of grass-fed beef. There is the health aspect: Conventional beef has an Omega-6 fatty acid (the bad one) to Omega-3 fatty acid (the good one) ratio of about 20:1. Humans should really have an O-6:O-3 ratio of 6:1. The oft touted "Mediterranean Diet" has a ratio of 4:1. Thousand Hills Cattle Company beef has been measured to have a O-6:O-3 ratio of 2:1 and even 1:1. Pretty impressive stuff!

Additionally, cattle are meant to eat grasses - not grains. In order to eat the grains (corn, soybeans, etc), the PH of the cattle's stomach drops from 6.5 to 4.5. Guess what nasty organism thrives at 4.5 - that's right - E. Coli! Just by going grass-fed, we could eliminate 99% of the E.Coli that gets into our food supply. Doesn't that sound like a better way to go than irradiating our meat?

The environmental aspect: Properly managed grass-fed beef will actually build the soil up rather than depleting it. No chemicals means not killing the micro-organisms that help to create the soil. Having grass on the soil prevents erosion from both wind and water (and helps to keep the moisture levels up). Todd Churchill believes that we can really combat the increased carbon emissions using grass-fed cattle.

The animal welfare aspect: These cattle are not in a feedlot being pumped with antibiotics, being fed food that makes them sick, and are not standing their entire lives in a pile of smelly feces. These cattle are on grass, in fields, doing what they have been designed to do.

Some of you may say "Yes, but in the end, they still get slaughtered - and I've heard all those horrible stories about animal slaughter." Well, then you haven't heard of Lorentz Meats. Lorentz is the local meat processing plant. Thousand Hills Cattle Company uses Lorentz Meats for all of their processing. They do the whole thing - the slaughter, the hanging, the butchering, even some curing and cooking - all under one roof. They do everything as smoothly, calmly, and humanely as possible. Lorentz Meats was actually mentioned in Michael Pollan's book Omnivore's Dilemma for those reasons.

We got a small tour of Lorentz Meats. We missed the actual slaughtering, as they got done before we got there. But, anyone is welcome to come and see what they do and how they do it. We were able to look through a window into the kill room and also the processing room where they do the butchering. Today, they were butchering red deer.

Todd also took us to his farm south of town. He explained that he has specific things that he is looking for in both the cattle breed and how it is raised in order for it be Thousand Hills Cattle Company beef. It was interesting to hear his various opinions on types of grasses, how often to rotate the cattle, which breeds of cattle work best, where to get the best feeder cattle, etc. The guy is a font of knowledge. He's done his homework.

Thousand Hills Cattle Company is starting a line of raw dog and cat food, which they showed us in their warehouse. It looks pretty interesting and is just getting started. They said that if a store has their beef, they probably will have the raw dog/cat food - just maybe not out on display. So, if you are interested, you may need to ask for it.

I walked away having learned quite a lot about how Thousand Hills Cattle Company works, how they got to where they are, and why they do the things they do. I am even more excited about the fact that they are near us and we can reap the benefits of their hard work. But, most exciting of all, we all went home with free packets of their regular and habanero beef jerky. Yum!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Mom Was My Weird Food Dealer

I've always loved to eat the heart and gizzard of the turkey. It is my mom's fault, really. She would always eat them when I was growing up - saying they were a special treat for her. My sisters heard the words "heart" and "gizzard" and looked sick. I immediately wanted to try them. So, mom gave me a small taste of each - and that was it. I was hooked. Since then, we shared them whenever there was turkey.

Mom is also to blame for my love of bone marrow. Again, this was one of "her treats", and so I felt that I must have some of this wondrous treat. She gave me my first bite - and again - I was hooked. My Mom - she dealt in weird food - and got her daughter hooked on it.

I will be honest in saying that I refused to eat tongue for a long time. I had this thing about eating something that could taste me back. However, I tried tongue at Meritage in St. Paul last year - and it was fabulous! It was so tender and delicate - I loved it.

So, I've been more determined to try some of those weird things that most people hear about and either start to gag or make the Mr. Yuck face. Ironically, that is the same reaction my brother makes to onions.

I have eaten sweetbreads - the glands of an animal to include the thymus and the pancreas. They are sweet - and very tender. I wasn't blown away by them, but they seem to be an economical use of an animal.

Blood sausage is another favorite. I tried it for the first time last year. Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls makes their own and sells it in the local grocery and food stores. On a whim, I bought one. I heated it through and served it with homemade spaetzle. It was really good - a creamy texture that was more pudding than sausage. My husband isn't crazy about it, but it seems that I must have some in stock at all times.

When we bought a whole lamb a couple of years ago, we got the lamb liver, kidneys and heart. I made up the lamb kidneys and heart in a similar way to coq au vin - ending up with a red wine sauce with onion, garlic, mushrooms. The meal was awesome - the kidneys were very tender and had a liver taste to them - just not quite as strong.

I haven't tried brain yet, but will try it when I get a chance. We're getting a whole hog for our fall festival and have asked for pretty much everything except the stomach, intestines, and oink. I'm really looking forward to seeing what we do with the offal.

What about you all out there? Are you an adventurous food eater? What is the craziest thing you have eaten?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Busters on 28th: Beer and Food

Last night, after a long afternoon of digging a 105-foot trench, my husband and I went up to the Cities for some food and beer. We settled on Busters on 28th. We'd heard some good things about it - particularly its wide craft beer selection.

We walked into Busters and immediately got that neighborhood bar feel. There were are great mix of folk - families with kids, twenty-something hipsters, couples of all ages. It had that true "pub" feel - it wasn't just a bar people went to in order to get drunk and party, but rather a place people went to for a good time with family and friends.

It was pretty packed, but we got a table right away in this "seat yourself" establishment. We had very nice service throughout, even though it was very full.

Their fairly extensive draft beer menu had several I had tried and liked and a few that I had not. So I ordered the mixed (American and Import) beer flight. It is nice that Busters allows you to pick any 5 beers on their draft menu for the beer flight.I like beer flights - and not every place does them. I like trying new beers, but obviously can't do full glasses of more than a couple at one sitting. I ordered the Uinbroue Maudite, Lift Bridge's Farm Girl Saison, Blvd Tank #7, Magic Hat #9 and Kwak. As you can tell, I like Belgians. I'd already tried the Maudite, Farm Girl and Kwak, but Blvd Tank #7 and Magic Hat #9 were new to me.

The Husband and I both really liked Blvd Tank #7 - it was a very nice, easy drinking summer beer. It had a lot of aromatic hops, but didn't have too much bitterness. Very complex and fruity. Magic Hat #9 was quite different. It was dry but had almost no aroma (that we could smell). Malty and nutty. Interesting, but not something I could really drink a lot of. But, it was definitely leaning more "autumn" beer.

One thing I must talk about is the house-made potato chips. The menu calls them Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips. They are very nice, thin chips with the skins on. We didn't notice a lot of sea salt or vinegar on these chips (I had a few that had some good sea salt). But they were very snackable. We plowed through these babies - with the help of their french onion dip - in no time.

The Husband had the mock duck pizza and I ordered the oddly named "Elian Gonzalez". The pizza had a lot of spices going on - which was probably necessary or you would have had a very dull pizza. The crust - more that cracker-style. It certainly wasn't soggy, but it wasn't very exciting or flavorful.

The Elian Gonzalez shredded pork with sliced ham sandwich had a really nice ciabatta bread (from the bakery next door - A Baker's Wife). It had a good chewy crust and a nice soft texture inside that didn't disintegrate with the sandwich ingredients. I'm a sucker for good bread. I love bread. Unfortunately, the sandwich was overwhelmed by the pickle aioli. This seems to be their signature sauce (it was listed on several of their sandwiches and burgers). The problem was that the pickle aioli mixed with the gruyere and shredded pork in a way that reminded me of a tuna melt. It wasn't bad - it just didn't seem to achieve the flavor palette that I think they were trying to achieve.

I have to give a shout out for their fries. They weren't really crispy, but they brought me back to my childhood. They really reminded me of the fries my dad would make up at the potato warehouse during potato harvest. Again, that homemade/house-made fry - a bit soggy and greasy. But, I was immediately transported back to a small, cramped, poorly-lit room off the side of a huge, cavernous potato warehouse with a black deep fryer and thick, just-sliced potatoes browning away - and several dirty farmers snatching a few off a grease-soaked paper towel.

In the end, the beer selection was very good, the ambiance nice (although a bit loud), and the food ranged from ok to pretty good. I think it would be worth a return visit with some friends.

Do you have a favorite beer hall?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food Resolutions

My husband and I really started to get into the "grow your own" movement this year. Not only do we have chickens that supply us with organic eggs, but we have a lot of fruits and vegetables growing on the property as well. We've had a lot of them in the past, but I must admit that I was overwhelmed with "what do you do with this". A lot of vegetables rotted on our kitchen table, drawing flies and oozing liquids. You can only make so much zuccini bread before you go insane. I felt so bad that so much food went to waste.

I resolved that this would not happen this year. I'm happy to say that aside from some zuccini and cucumbers (which we fed to our chickens - go "free" chicken feed!), we've done a lot with our food this year. We've made several batches of tomato sauce, plum sauce, jams, pickles, relish. I'm proud to say that we processed every single plum we could harvest. I'm particularly proud of the plum-raspberry jam.

It is a bit runny - but the taste is outstanding. The bits of plum skin got really gelatin-y and are completely infused with this wonderful sweet/sour/floral flavor. I have to say it is my favorite jam thus far.

We're continually adding to our edible plants - we added hazelnut bushes, High Bush cranberry bushes, and currants. We hope to add elderflower bushes as well.

Every year, I am resolved to do more with the food that we grow/produce. I am getting much more comfortable with the whole pickling/canning/jam process. I must say, I was quite squeamish about it - having heard all the scary death stories of entire counties being wiped out with a batch of bad peas. But still, I continue forward looking at new ways to process and preserve our food for later months.

What are you doing with food this year? Are you gardening? Are you processing/preserving? Do you have a favorite? Do you have suggestions? I'm all ears!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Here Goes

After much prodding from my husband to start a blog - here it is. My blog. It was sort of difficult to come up with "what my blog should be about". It seems that everyone has a blog these days. Heck, even animals and non-living creatures have blogs. I felt like I was a "Johnny-come-lately" - arriving so late the party was over. But, I decided, Why not!

Going over things, I realized that I am really passionate about a few things - food, drink, and music. I don't claim to be all-knowing or a master of any of these things. I just really enjoy them. What I have to say probably won't blow anyone's mind, but that's ok.

I say in my profile that I have been told that I "eat with gusto". My mom is the one who coined that phrase about me. When I was young, I ate so much all the time. When we went out to a restaurant, I would clean my plate and eat whatever everyone else couldn't finish. I had no concern about using the proper utensil or getting in there with my hands. I just went for it. My sister called me the "human garbage disposal".

I guess the point I'd like to make with this, my first post, is that I hope that I'm able to approach life in general like I've approached eating - with gusto. Looking back, I can find points in my life where I didn't "just go for it" - moments that I wonder what would have happened if I had. But, instead of dwelling on those past "what ifs", I plan on looking forward and hopefully live my life "with gusto". In keeping with that spirit - I hereby christen this my first blog post.