Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ewe plant

2010 is right around the corner, and though I'm not really one to make a bunch of Resolutions, I do try each year to come up with a few goals for the New Year that help keep me focused on where I want to be heading.

Along these lines, in the coming year I hope to greatly expand our backyard vegetable gardens. I'll be trying to grow some things I haven't planted before (such as Delicata squash, melons, and curly kale) - and I'll also be planting greater quantities of tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, Brussels sprouts, and other favorites. This means more raised beds will need to be built - lots of work to be done outside!

I also hope to finally pull everything together such that I can add chickens to our little world in 2010 - again, lots of work to be done first, building them a coop and a run so we can keep them safely in our yard and out of the neighbors' yards! I love reading about other local folks' chicken adventures - helps me remember that this is definitely "doable" in my neck of the woods!!

Anyway, so given my 2010 plans, my gardening obsession, and my love of sheep (I don't have real sheep of my own (yet!!) but I do have a collection of sheep decorating my fireplace mantel...) I thought one of my Christmas gifts from my husband was just perfect. He took a "found" planter, cleaned it up and patched a hole in the bottom, and then painted it for me.

"Ewe plant" - makes me smile every time I look at it. And it really does just say it all - doesn't it?

Happy New Year, all!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry, merry, merry!

Just wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.

May your days be filled with -

Family...

Friends...

And FUN!!

(yes, that's Mo-pug vs. the Santa hat - or, what happens when you try to get both a pug and a child to pose for a Christmas photo on a beautiful November day... (grin))

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

quick and easy butter cookies


I like cookie recipes that don't make TOO many cookies, as I for one can leave no cookie uneaten. If it's here in the house, it's gone before I know it!! So a recipe that makes just about 2 dozen cookies works for me - plenty for everyone in the family to enjoy, but not so many that we enjoy them to excess.

This butter cookie recipe makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen happy little cookies - and it's nice and simple. Not too many ingredients - and all things I usually have on hand.

Oh - before I share the recipe, I'll share a picture of Mo-pug, who was happy this morning to discover that I am a messy baker. She stood in the kitchen trying to catch flour as it floated to the floor. Note the white sprinkles on the normally all-black puggy chin. She cracks me up!!

On to the recipe (courtesy of The New York Times Cookbook)!

Butter Cookies

1/4 pound butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind, or 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup flour
Nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly. Add the egg, salt, vanilla and fruit rind, and mix. Add the flour and mix well.
3. Shape the dough into small balls and flatten with the hand, or chill the dough and put through a cookie press. Garnish with nuts if desired.
4. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake until the edges are light brown, or about 12 minutes.
5. ENJOY!!

super simple centerpiece

We're hosting family for Christmas Eve dinner at our house tomorrow, and I wanted to decorate the table "holiday-style." The bowl is a Freecycle find - the pine branches were cut from our Christmas tree so we could fit it properly into the stand - and the pinecones are from our yard. The cardinal is one of several I have around the house. My great-grandmother was one of my favorite people ever, and she loved cardinals (like seriously, obsessively loved them!!). My cardinal collection reminds me of spending time with her, watching her fill her suet feeders and waiting for the cardinals to come and eat!

A super simple centerpiece, and a happy holiday creation - without spending a dime. Works for me (grin)!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

dark days challenge - week 5


I missed posting my Week 4 Dark Days meal - oops!! Something about December - it flies right by sometimes!

For Week 5's Dark Days meal, we decided last night (once we were done shoveling snow!) to "think warm" and barbecue! We pulled some chicken legs (Hayward Farm) out of the freezer and put them on the grill. Then we quartered some Meadow's Mirth white onions, put them on skewers, and out onto the grill they went as well. I love grilled onions. Of course I love onions just about any way they can be cooked - so I'm easy on that count (grin). We had the oven on for a banana bread anyway (just about nothing local in that baking project!!) - so we threw in a couple of the sweet potatoes we got from Ramsbotham's Farm.

It was a simple meal - chicken, onions, and baked sweet potatoes - but a super tasty one!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

when snowed in, make chicken stock!

We seem to be quite snowed in this morning. Rumor has it we're only supposed to get 1-2" where we live - but we've got at least 5" out there already, and it's still coming down hard!

So, since we're here, we decided to use some of the chicken bones from recent roast chicken dinners to make chicken stock. The chickens came from Riverview Farm (Madbury, NH), and Hayward Farm (Gilmanton Iron Works, NH). We've been saving the bones in the freezer until we had enough - and until we knew we were going to be home for a few hours. And since we had plenty of carrots, onions, garlic, dill, and oregano from the farmers' markets to add to the "mix," we have a nice mostly-local (except for the bay leaf and salt) stock boiling away!

Soup for lunch later... can't wait!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

one day - two wonderful winter markets

Today there were two winter farmers' markets in our area - one in Newmarket, and one in Rollinsford. We went to both - and they were wonderful (and very busy) once again!

In Newmarket, we bought garlic, eggs, and a handful of packets of High Mowing Organic Seeds (delicata squash, cucumbers, melons, snap peas, and pattypan squash). It's great fun to be thinking about next year's garden as more snow heads our way this weekend!!

Then in Rollinsford, we stocked up on storage onions, potatoes, broccoli, and more garlic- and we also got some kielbasa. I was hoping to find cauliflower and Brussels sprouts too - but they were sold out by the time we arrived. Next time!

The next markets in this area aren't until January 9 in Exeter, and January 16 in Rye and Newmarket - and I'm looking forward to them already!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

fun with kill a watt

This week I was able to borrow a Kill A Watt meter from our local library. It's pretty nifty - you plug it in, and then plug different electrical items into it (lights, appliances, computers, etc.). It tells you how much electricity each item is using when it's on, and also when it's plugged in but just sitting there unused (so you can measure the "phantom load" on your system).

My engineer husband has been having tons of fun figuring out which appliances we should definitely be unplugging when they're not in use (like our copier/printer/fax, which so far (even though it puts itself in "sleep" mode) has about double the phantom load of anything else we've measured in the house!) - and which we apparently need not unplug (like our lamps that are on wall switches, which have zero phantom load as long as the wall switches are off).

Right now, our refrigerator is plugged into the meter. We're leaving it there for 24 hours so we can get a good picture of how much electricity it is using, and whether a new refrigerator is in order or if the one we have is still running "typically" in terms of energy usage.

I'm sure our electric bill will be a little higher than usual this month, on account of the handful of Christmas lights we have up outside - but I'm hoping the "phantom load" exercise will help us bring the bill down as we head into 2010.

I've read that many libraries are starting to have the meters available for borrowing - might be worth looking into if haven't tried one yet, and you're curious about energy usage at your house too!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

winter's arrival

It felt like Spring last week - and now overnight it seems Winter has arrived in New Hampshire!! These are some pictures of our front yard, as we found it when we woke up this morning. Hope your day is pretty too!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

another awesome winter market!

Another wonderful winter market in Rollinsford today!! We ran through the market right after it opened at 10:00 today, as we're busy this afternoon. Last time we went later in the day, to avoid the crowds a bit - and when we got there closer to 1:00 there was plenty of parking and still plenty of fabulous local food!!

Today we picked up the kale, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggs, onions, and potatoes pictured above - as well as some ground pork, pork tenderloins and kielbasa. Our items came from Ramsbotham's Farm, New Roots, Meadow's Mirth, Heron Pond, Hollister's Family Farm... I think that's everyone!

There's another Seacoast Eat Local winter market next Saturday - this time in Exeter, NH. I'm looking forward to it - and I'm hoping to have a little more time next week to check out the tables of some of the farms and vendors who we haven't purchased from yet!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

dark days challenge - week 3

For tonight's dinner (and this week's Dark Day Challenge meal), we made meatballs in red sauce with french-fried potatoes on the side. I didn't take a photo, as after after struggling to get the macaroni and cheese looking presentable earlier this week, I didn't think I'd have much luck with meatballs in sauce (grin)!!

We make our meatballs with 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground pork - plus an egg, chopped onion and garlic, a little cumin, and a touch of salt. We cook them in a "Cuban style" tomato sauce (rather than Italian). To make the sauce, we start with a sofrito of chopped tomato, garlic, and onion heated in a little oil - then we add plain tomato sauce, dry white wine, a touch of salt, and the meatballs, and cook together until the meat is done.

When we make meatballs, we always make enough to have leftovers, as they taste fabulous the next day in a toasted sandwich, or (my favorite way) reheated, cut into small pieces, and scooped up with corn tortilla chips.

Local ingredients for this week's Challenge meal are the pork (Jenness Farm - not only do they have goat products, but they also sell pork at their farm store!), ground beef (Pinewoods Yankee), egg (Stonewall Farm), tomato (from a small farm in Lee, frozen by us for winter use), tomato sauce (made this summer from some of our CSA tomatoes, and frozen), garlic (Tuckaway Farm), and onions and potatoes (both from Meadow's Mirth). Non-local ingredients are the salt, cumin, oil, and dry wine.

bringing home the tree

It was a beautiful day to go pick out a tree today - so we headed off to Warren Farm this morning! We went to the "back field" where they have Concolor Fir and Blue Spruce (and lots of pretty views!).

Saws are available at the farm - but make sure you wear your boots!

There were lots of trees from which to choose!

And some trees had already been chosen - my son enjoyed counting rings to see how old some of the trees were when they were cut down!

We chose a 7' tall Concolor Fir. We have cut a Concolor each of the last 10 years - they're pretty trees with long, soft, blue needles. And the trees smell like oranges, which I think is wonderful - Christmas wouldn't feel the same in our house without one!!

the sky has eyes?

We went out to Newington yesterday, and this is what (who?) we saw watching us drive home. I think the sky really does have eyes!!
EDIT - I realized I should write what I see here, as could be that everyone who looks at the photo sees something different. Clouds are like that!! I see a very wide head, with 2 eyes in the center, and a wide mouth - like a creature of some sort looking back at me. What do you see??

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the best mac and cheese I've ever made

Although I couldn't get a picture that was very pretty, this was by far the best tasting homemade mac and cheese casserole I've ever made. The roasted butternut combined with the cheddar sauce is just fabulous!!

I saw the recipe in Parents magazine, but modified it to use whole (not reduced fat) milk and regular (not low-fat) cheddar. And we thought the butternut needed a little more time than they said, so we added 5 minutes to their recommended 20... other than that, here's the recipe - (mostly) "as was."

Butternut Squash Casserole

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 cups)
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lb whole wheat elbows
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 3/4 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded and divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss squash with oil and salt on a foil-lined tray. Bake for 25 minutes or until tender; set aside.
2. Cook pasta for 2 minutes less than package directions call for; drain and place in bowl with squash. Meanwhile, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour; cook for 2 minutes.
3. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 1/2 cups cheese; stir until melted. Stir cheese sauce into pasta and squash.
4. Spoon into 6 greased individual ramekins. Sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake 10 minutes. Serves 6.

The individual portions in the little ramekins were adorable - and my son was all excited to have his very own little white dish! We served the remaining Brussels sprouts from our garden that we harvested today, steamed, on the side - and it was a great meal. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think!