Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Time to Be Thankful

This has been a particularly blog-unfriendly year, between not having a lot of time and not having a lot of interest in canning or baking. I know, that seems weird. It's not like I'm not baking, it's just that it's fairly routine stuff, like cookies or cornbread or the regular batches of white bread I make with Legion whenever we run out. That's still happening, but it doesn't seem all that blog-worthy anymore. I haven't even started a gift stash this year.

But it is Thanksgiving, and it's time to stop and rest briefly and have a feast. To reflect on the things that have made this year good and overlook the bad.

This year there will be nine of us, and I just brined the turkey. We are having our feast on Friday as I'm working tomorrow, giving me an extra day to bake and prepare. Yesterday I made the squash by roasting my last three farm share butternuts and mixing the baked squash with butter, salt, and pepper. Nothing too fancy. Mom will bring the sweet potatoes we love, our friends are bringing rolls and Brussels sprouts, and maybe a dessert.

For the turkey, I mixed 1 cup of Kosher salt for each gallon of water, and put the turkey in that with some bay leaves, peppercorns, sage, celery salt and rosemary.

The next thing I did was make two pumpkin pies, using my favorite recipe. Fortunately, I had condensed milk in the house and didn't need to run out and get some.  I also had 3 cups of pumpkin  purée in the freezer; that may be the last of it. The crust got a little toasty because they were a little too close to the edges of the oven but nothing too bad. I baked the leaves and acorns separately for about 20 minutes so they wouldn't burn. One will go to work with me tomorrow and the other is for my feast.

Tomorrow after work I will make an apple pie and also the stuffing, then on the day of I can roast the turkey, make the mashed potatoes, and put on all the finishing touches!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Semi-Responsible Bee Guardianship

It's been sort of cold, sort of warm, very rainy and not exactly great weather to get into the hive. I'd been meaning to make fondant for them, and get the hives insulated. General wisdom is to insulate the hives around Thanksgiving. Which is next week. But it's going to drop to the 30's tonight.

So I rushed home and made fondant. One quarter of the recipe posted here makes enough to fill two combiner boards which is what I use to make candy boards for a top bar hive. It cooled quickly and I ran out with all the insulation panels to get the hives tucked in for the winter.

Beeyonce's hive was fine, I got the fondant in there and the insulation panels on without an issue. Oh, did I mention I was not wearing my gear or using smoke? This was the irresponsible part, as it turned out, as Phoebee's hive was not as docile. They were, in fact, rather agitated that I was opening their hive on a damp, overcast day. I got the fondant in and three of the four panels on before one decided my wrist was just too close and stung me. Even after spraying it with alcohol the bees were still mad and another got onto my shirt and stung me through it. I decided to leave them to calm down and come back out just before the sun set to get the last panel on.

Once inside the house, I discovered that a bee had hitched a ride on my hair and was now in the kitchen. I managed to catch her with a drinking glass and a towel and took her back outside so she could go home. I'm glad she was the only one!

I just managed to get that last panel on. As expected, when I went back out there were no longer bees crowding the entrance and I was able to tuck them in nicely. Fingers crossed until the spring!

Monday, October 22, 2018

I Bake Because I Love You

The youngerchild takes Latin. Last year the fun project was gladiatorial combat using cardboard armor (and weapons) that was graded on its period accuracy. This year, they will be escaping Pompeii, or trying to, during the volcanic eruption.

Snacks for the class were optional.

Originally the youngerchild asked for Lava cakes but we realized they needed to be baked and served immediately. That wouldn't do. Then we discussed cupcakes with lava colored filling. That led to the inevitable...cream puffs with lava colored filling.

Here's what I know - 1. I am terribly out of practice. 2. One full batch of pate a choux makes a whole lot of cream puffs. And swan bodies (I'm freezing those, thinking about Thanksgiving which is not that far away). 3. My hands aren't as strong as they were while I was in culinary school (see #1, above). 4. Swan heads don't need to be baked for 20 minutes, 15 minutes will do (the first batch burned, whoops!). 5. I have clearly forgotten how to make fondant topping. I did manage to save it after it broke, just barely, and half a batch is just enough for 3 dozen cream puffs. 6. I'm dreading starting my new kitchen and desperate for it at the same time.

Anyway, here are the lava puffs. And I'm exhausted. They literally took all day.

I love you, kiddo.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Notes on a Long, Cold Week

In the ever-fluctuating weather of New England, it's been REALLY COLD. And sometimes rainy. But COLD. It was 33˚F this morning. However, now it's a balmy 57˚F and I needed to get into the hives.

I'd planned to take the feeders out entirely, particularly since Beeyonce's hive hadn't really been taking as much syrup. I took advantage of this nice weather and got in there, removing the feeder and moving the false back closer to the combs. For Phoebee's hive, I'd planned to do the same but since they were a younger colony and the weather is supposed to be a little warmer over the weekend, I gave them a new jar of syrup. One more, before the cold sets in for real.

Recently we also went apple picking, in the rain, although the rain gods were kind and it only drizzled while we were out in the fields. I made a pie for the elderchild's birthday but haven't even decided how much applesauce I'm going to make. We're eating our way through the rest for now and I'll see how much applesauce we need before I start going crazy. We haven't been eating through it as quickly as we used to. I guess as the kids grow older they don't see applesauce as a snack.

Yesterday I picked up the penultimate farm share. I didn't spend a lot of time in the fields but did get a whole lot of kale and parsley. There were squashes and potatoes and brussels sprouts and all sorts of terrific autumn veggies. I'm a little inundated with escarole but I will make another batch of soup with some of it. Tuscan-style escarole and white bean soup is one of my favorites.

What I should be doing is taking advantage of this great weather and cleaning up the yard a bit. But I'm tired. Maybe tomorrow. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Maybe I'm a Disney Princess?

I think he's a yellow-throated vireo. And a young one, at that.
Today as I drove into the parking lot at work I saw a little yellow fluff on the parking deck. It didn't seem like a leaf to me. After I parked I went back to see if I was imagining things and, no, I wasn't. It was a little bird.

But he was just sitting there! So I picked him up, thinking he was hurt. He sat in my hands and let me pet him and seemed maybe a little dazed. Maybe he'd hit the windows above? I couldn't see a nest up in the building above the parking deck, so a window was the most likely reason he was just sitting on the ground. I checked out his wings, made sure they both extended fully, and wondered if maybe he needed to sit in the sun until he could warm up and be ready to fly.

I carried him over to the sunnier part of the parking deck, near the trees. Then I decided to try to give him a little toss, to see what he might do. He fluttered a bit and landed in my hands. I tried again. This time he fluttered his wings, took off, and flew into the nearby trees.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Thing of Beauty

Our dishwasher arrived today.

It's shiny and quiet and, most importantly, doesn't leak. I'm so happy!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Peach Pie Filling

A little bit ago I bought a whole lot of peaches. We ate what we could, I made a crisp and some peach melba jam, and there were a few left that were getting a little soft. I decided to try my hand at peach pie filling.

The first recipe I found had apples and raisins in it and I didn't want to make that. Then I found a plain recipe which was scalable. For 6 large peaches, first I peeled and sliced them and set them in a bowl of water with lemon juice (to stop the browning). Then I boiled the peach slices for a minute and set them aside to drain. The next step was to combine 1.5 cups sugar, 9 oz. water, just under 1/2 cup of Clear Jel, and a heaping 1/8 tsp. of cinnamon and bring to a boil. Then I added 3 oz. lemon juice and boiled for a minute. Then the peaches were folded in and cooked for about 3 minutes, and then packed into pint jars. This amount made 3 pints. They were processed for 30 minutes in boiling water.

While they were processing, I went to feed the bees and found that one hive (Phoebee's, who I was able to see today) finished their jar of syrup and the other hive (Beeyonce's) didn't. Not sure why that is, but I changed the one that was empty and I'll check again in a day or two.