Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy anniversary!

Today is my parent's 55th wedding anniversary.

They were married August 30, 1958 and still hold hands when they walk down the street. How cool is that?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Broccoli beef

With lots of ripe broccoli in the garden, I decided to make a batch of broccoli beef for dinner. Unlike me, my kids aren't wildly crazy about broccoli, but this is one recipe guaranteed to get them to eat their veggies.

I base my broccoli beef recipe very loosely on a recipe found in a Chinese cookbook I found at a thrift store.

I say "loosely" because if I followed all the detailed directions, it would take me hours to make this dish. So I wing it instead.

I started by cutting a good amount of ripe broccoli.

Garden-fresh broccoli should be soaked in salt water for a few minutes to weed out any critters.

So I filled a bowl and dumped in a few tablespoons of salt, then soaked the broccoli for a few minutes.

Pretty clean broccoli. A couple of little worms, that's all.

I set the girls to cutting up the broccoli.

Meanwhile I took some meat out to defrost.

I like to cut the meat up into very small pieces.

I marinate the meat for a few minutes in a bit of oil, along with equal parts salt, sugar, cornstarch, and soy sauce. By "equal parts," I wing the amounts. I usually put in less salt, for example, and more soy sauce.

While the meat is marinating, I boil a pot of water. When the water is boiling, I drop the broccoli in to cook for about two minutes.

Then I drain the broccoli and rinse it right away with cold water.

Into the same pot that held the broccoli, I add a bit of oil and start cooking the beef. A wok would work well for this step.

While the beef is browning, I add garlic, a bit more soy sauce, and ginger.

While ground ginger works fine, I just happened to have some fresh ginger on hand, which adds a lot more zing. I peeled the ginger and grated it.

The recipe calls for chicken stock and oyster sauce. I keep homemade chicken stock on hand, but oyster sauce must be bought commercially. Can't skip that ingredient, it makes all the difference.

To about a cup of chicken stock, I had a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch for thickener.

Then I started combining everything together. Broccoli...

...spices, and then the entire bottle of oyster sauce.

In fact, to make sure I get ALL the oyster sauce out of the bottle, I take a bit of the chicken stock (mixed with cornstarch) and pour it into the bottle, give it a good shake...

...and pour everything into the broccoli beef.

Then I pour in the rest of the chicken stock mixed with cornstarch. We like our broccoli beef to have sauce with it since we eat it over rice.

It let it simmer a few more minutes so the cornstarch can do its thickening magic.

I also made a fresh pot of rice.


(By the way, my apologies that the photos are a bit dark. I had my camera on the wrong setting.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Please stand by...

Sorry for the shortage of posts recently. We've been frantically busy with our woodcraft business ('tis the busy season, after all) and I simply haven't had much time to compose anything. Don't go away! I'll be right back.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not yet

The watermelons and cantaloups in the garden have been getting bigger and bigger. But were they ripe?

Don decided to find out.

So he went through all the plants and picked the biggest melon he could find.

Then he took it into the house and sliced it open.

Nope. Not ripe.

So we sliced it and gave it to the chickens, who thought it was Just Great.

Later on, Polly chewed on the pecked-out rinds.

But this green melon begs the question, how can you tell when a watermelon is ripe? We tried the old "thump it" trick (where you snap your finger against the rind, and if it sounds dull then it's ripe) but clearly it didn't work.

Determining ripeness turns out to be a subtle science. I found a link to a gardening website which offered much advice, the most useful of which are:

• Look for the spot where the melon rested on the ground; a yellow-white, yellow or a cream-yellow color spot suggests ripeness and a white or pale green spot indicates immaturity. A green watermelon will have a white bottom; a ripe melon will have a cream- or yellow-colored bottom. Those fruit that show a change of color from green or olive-grey to yellowish brown should be considered ready to harvest. Also look for a breakup of green bands at the blossom end of the fruit. For best quality, walk the patch daily.

• Check the tendril. If the tendril is green, you should wait to pick the melon. Harvest when the curled tendril near the stem, the "pigtail" or tendril closest to the melon on the vine begins to shrivel and dry up. If it dries while the leaves and rest of the vine looks good, the melon should be ripe.

And, when in doubt:

• Crack a few. You've got a whole field of watermelons, and you can practice a little, right?

• Still confulsed? Guess. All indicators will not always work. Take your best shot and go with it.

In short, there doesn't appear to be an absolute determinant to figuring out when a watermelon is ripe. I'll try checking the "pigtail" tendril as well as the color on the melon's bottom next time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book bomb day for The Prepared Family Cookbook!

Today is the official launch day for our friend and neighbor Enola Gay's new book, The Prepared Family Cookbook.

We've watched and cheered Enola for the last couple of years as she's brought this volume from concept to fruition. This family is renowned in our area for their welcoming and friendly home, and Enola brings a lot of her special touch into this book. She discusses such endearing habits as tea time and hospitality, but also concrete practical subjects as preparedness, canning and food preservation, woodstove cookery, off-grid living, and homestead medicine.

There is also a large section of Enola's favorite recipes. Older Daughter has been thoroughly enjoying the recipe for Soft Giant Pretzels this week.

Besides being a wonderful preparedness resource, The Prepared Family Cookbook gives you a glimpse into the private lives of this delightful family we're privileged to call friends.

If you're looking for an excellent and practical addition to your preparedness library, look no further.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Battling hummingbirds

On August 5, I belatedly hung up the hummingbird feeder after noticing a couple of hummers hovering on our front porch in a very pointed way. Considering I haven't hung the feeder since summer before last, I can only assume these birds either had a very good memory, or it was pure chance that they lingered in front of the window, looking at me crossly.

So I mixed up sugar water (4:1 ratio) and hung the feeder. It took, oh, about fifteen minutes for the first hummer to discover it.

There's just something so endlessly fascinating about these tiny packages of metabolism and mobility.

See her little tongue sticking out?

It didn't take long for more hummingbirds to find the feeder, and then the battle was on.

It got to where there were so many birds that I was refilling the feeder every day. At one point I counted nine hummers arguing over the artificial flowers.

You know how it is with hummers. They let you get right up to them.

And then about a week ago, kaboom. Nothing. No more hummers. The feeder hung there, full of sugar water, deserted.

In this part of the country, it's advised that people not feed hummers past late summer because it will encourage them to put off their migration to warmer climates. But is their departure so sudden and abrupt? Possibly.

At any rate, I guess I'll take the feeder down now. Nothing more to see.