Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Progress and Frustration

We have walls. And a floor

The radiant flooring will be installed in the master bathroom soon. We identified that we needed a few extra pieces of tile for the shower and I was able to order them. Our contractor is really happy with how the plaster was applied as it dried perfectly. These are the signs of progress.

The frustration is that the cabinets aren't ready; we were promised 8-10 weeks, this is week 10 since I signed the work order. Apparently an integral worker on the cabinets is currently quarantined. I guess this is what happens in a pandemic. It does mean we had to delay the appliance delivery by an additional three weeks. I have been informed that it is unlikely I will have a functional kitchen by Christmas. We're trying to remain calm.

In other news, last week I made fondant for the bees and put the sheet of fondant between the top of the bars and the inner lid. Hopefully that, plus their own honey stores and the insulation I applied, will help them stay alive and healthy through the winter. 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. It's weird to not be making any pies. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Oven Opportunity

Last weekend we had to vacate the house for two days while the spray foam insulation was applied. Apparently we weren't supposed to be around the fumes while the chemical "cured." So we moved into my parents' nearby apartment which was currently empty, smuggling the rabbit and his cage in late at night in case we weren't supposed to have him there. This is the place where I've been storing a lot of my things and where I have been baking bread every week. Key words: FUNCTIONAL KITCHEN.

The first night we were there I baked cornflake chicken and squash halves in the oven. I made a batch of cookies. It was lovely. The next day I made a double batch of cornbread and baked it in little loaf tins so we could freeze some. We had two of the loaves tonight with a taco casserole I made in the instant pot. For dinner, the youngerchild asked for something unexpected - chicken pot pie! I didn't know the youngerchild liked that. I figured out a way I could make it with what I had available to me.

At the store, I bought a rotisserie chicken and some chicken gravy. I had sweet potatoes and a small onion from the farm share which I cooked in a sauté pan until soft. I made half a batch of pie crust. We've been watching a lot of Great British Bake Off and everyone wanted me to make a "suet crust" but I only had butter so I guess it was a disappointment. Not really. Butter crusts are awesome.

I divided the crust into three portions, rolled them out and put them in more of those little aluminum loaf pans, then put a layer of shredded chicken, 1/3 of the sweet potato mixture, and 4 T. of chicken gravy in each one. I then folded over the flap of crust that was hanging off the side of the tin. These were baked for 25 minutes at 425˚F and then 20 minutes at 400˚F until the gravy was bubbling at the top. They were the perfect size and tasted pretty good. They maybe could have used more gravy poured over for serving but I wouldn't add any more to the pie itself because that might be too much moisture.

And look! No soggy bottom!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Bee Happy

At least, I think they are? They did okay during that cold snap and today it is 70˚ and they are very active. There is honey in almost all the frames of the second brood box. I didn't dig through very much because I don't want to disturb them as much as possible. Since the hive is now coated in styrofoam panels it would be exceptionally hard for me to take the box off and look at the lower brood box. 

What they are doing is breaking through the styrofoam I put between the inner and outer lids. I am not sure why they would do that. I suppose I can remove it but I am hoping it can continue to provide some insulation. There is a fine white powder that looks like ash in front of their entrance, after a beat or two I realized it was styrofoam dust. 

One thing I will need to do in the next few weeks is make a fondant sheet to put across the top of the upper brood box to give them a little more food for the winter. Just in case. 

As far as the home construction goes, the valve for the shower was installed so now the hot water is hot and the cold is cold; prior to that the water was mixing at that point and everything was basically the same temperature which made showers...interesting... The electricians are still working and tomorrow the AC vents will be moved. We hope to do the spray insulation this Friday. The tile is all here and accounted for and waiting in the garage for their step in the process. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Potato Leek Explosion

Since we're obvious not cooking a lot right now, the potatoes, squash, and other fall vegetables from the farm share are patiently waiting to be consumed. I have been trying to figure out how to manage this and decided to see if I could make potato leek soup in an instant pot. Turns out, it is not hard.

I chopped up my 3 large leeks and sautéed them in the pot with butter and oil. I added 2 cloves of garlic and then some flour. Once this was all cooked, I added 2 pints of stock (I had Ducken on hand) plus a cup of water, salt, pepper, and about a pound of potatoes. This was pressure cooked for 7 minutes and then naturally vented for 10 minutes. After that, I put some in my blender (one of the few things I didn't pack up and put away) and tried to blend it. 

Hot liquids always take me by surprise, I guess. That's the only explanation. I was holding down the lid but I guess the pressure from the steam was stronger, and of course it went everywhere. Thick, viscous potato leek soup. I was reminded why I have an immersion blender. I don't exactly know where it is at the moment. It could be in the foyer. Or the guest bedroom. Maybe the living room? My stuff is spread out all over the place; some of it is even at a different house right now. Finding anything that I didn't see in the last 5 minutes is basically impossible. 

Now the "kitchen" in my dining room is cleaned up and the I'm pleased to say the soup was excellent.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Because 2020, Why Else?

It snowed yesterday. Not just a light dusting, either. Five inches of snow. In October, in eastern MA. The last time it snowed around Halloween was about 8 years ago and not nearly this much. We lost one decent sized branch because our trees are still covered with leaves and the snow is very heavy, and all the other branches are weighed down and bent toward the ground. It's very pretty. Everything is melting now as it should be in the 40's today and the sun is shining. 

I'm not sure how the bees are doing. I'm glad I got out there to insulate the hive before this happened. There were a bunch of dead bees at the entrance to the hive, but not a huge amount. I hope they are OK. I did see one bee moving inside the entrance and I'll check on them in a few days when it's warmer. 

The construction had to be put on hold for a week while we made sure our contractor, who was ill, didn't have COVID. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, last week he did some of the framing and the electricians came and did most of the wiring. I think they have more to do next week, but it's a start. There will be no shortage of electrical outlets anymore, as the new building codes specify how many I need and it's way more than I'll ever use. Maybe when this is done we can have the coffee pot, kettle, and toaster run at the same time? Wouldn't that be nice. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Construction Update

The aforementioned instant pot is incredibly useful. After making a venison stew last week, yesterday I made egg noodles in it, set them aside, and then made chicken piccata. Well, a simplified version of piccata, but it tasted good and didn't take long. The egg noodles mostly cooked but some were more al dente than others. 

As far as the house goes, the bulk of the plumbing is done, and we're supposed to have the electricians here soon. Yesterday our AC person came by to discuss where to put the vents. When we put the high velocity AC in 16 years ago, we were not able to have vents in the living room because he couldn't get the ducts across the firewall we found on the center joist. Now, while the wall is open, we discovered he can run the ducts underneath it and into the living room ceiling so we are planning on getting two vents in the living room and leaving two vents in the kitchen. 

We need to pick out vanity mirrors asap.

Lastly, it's been chilly at night so I went out and installed the mouse guard on the hive and used styrofoam panels to insulate the hive. I'm worried that if they use up their honey stores now, they won't have enough for winter. A little extra insulation won't hurt. It doesn't look super pretty but it works!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Goose Stroganoff a la Instant Pot

Did I mention I have no kitchen?

Right. Well, my in-laws gave me a Yedi pressure cooker (basically an instant pot) for my birthday which arrived last week. The first thing I did with it was hard-boil some eggs which are handy for a quick lunch. Then I set to studying the recipe book and thinking of things I could make in it. I had some frozen game meat that my brother-in-law had given me so I thawed some and planned on making the "Meaty Noodles" recipe which is really just stroganoff. 

After thawing what I thought was a chunk of venison I discovered that it was actually goose breasts (complete with birdshot). I decided to go for it anyway and make this dish. I got all the component parts chopped up and placed into containers until it was time to cook. I had leftover egg noodles from last week in the fridge so those would be heated up at the last minute.

I will say this, the instant pot is easy. It's nice to be able to cook while I don't really have a stove and this whole adventure feels a little bit like camping. At least we're indoors. What does it matter if the working toilet and the working sink are on different floors?