Monday, January 28, 2013

January Resolutions

The only resolution I made this year was to try a new restaurant or two each month.  Does that count as a resolution?  I thought resolutions were punitive in nature - or good for you.  I have started running again but didn't want that as a resolution although maybe actually signing up for some races would be a good thing.  Those darn beanies take up my time and I can't seem to do the training schedule of running 4 days a week.  Heck, I can't even find the time to do a 15 min yoga session in the morning to start my day.

I am excited about going on my first ever yoga retreat in March.  Kent Island in March.   I can barely bend over anymore so I better start doing a dog or two on a regular basis so I don't embarrass myself.

Here is where we are staying - wow!

Back to eating.

The first place Sean and I tried was a new Vietnamese restaurant in Glover Park.  Glover Park abuts Georgetown and is not too far from where I live.  When I lived in Montreal, there were quite a number of Vietnamese place but I seldom ate there because it is meat based cuisine, and at the time, I was a vegetarian. I am a Johnny come lately to the cuisine and even now, I tend towards the sandwiches and not to the Pho with all that beef broth!

Sprig and Sprout, 2317 Wisconsin Ave - right next to the strip club.  Speaking of strip clubs, that was another activity I would occasionally participate in while living in Montreal - there were two young women who lived in my dorm (Molson Hall - yes, that's right, named after the beer family) forever to be know as Penny and Julia.  Penny and Julia loved going to the male strip clubs.  They went every week.  EVERY WEEK!  Every so often, they would convince their friends to come along.  To be honest, men look better with their clothes on.  When Emma, Sean and I were in Montreal this past summer, Emma's favorite time was walking on St. Catherine's street, photographing all the sex shops.  As she would say "good times"

So, the first new restaurant for the new year was Sprig and Sprout.  A small place but very cheery inside.  I had the Banh Mi with Lemongrass Chicken and Sean had the Pho with brisket.  I'm not a restaurant reviewer but the food was delicious and I think we can add this place to our work lunch rotation.

The 2nd place we tried this month was not new to either of us.  In fact, my kids LOVE Moby Dick.  They have the best rice of anywhere.  Beanie Two begs to go to Moby Dick and then won't share the rice with me.  Sean and I ate at the Bethesda location - I always get the falafel and this time around got the platter which came with my own side of the delicious rice.  Sean at some long meat cigar - he said it was good.  Cheap delicious food.

I've started reading a number of food related DC blogs.  I live in a city - there are so many places to eat!  Why do Sean and I end up at the same places all the time.  We need dates to go out with us to try new places!

This weekend is Porkfest 2013.  My friends are coming for dinner. I don't think my pig was even delivered this fall before my friend Joan asked when the pig was ready for eating.  I will take pictures and post again.

In the meantime, I am still trying to find out what this plant is!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jerusalem Artichokes

My garden friend, Danny, grows Jerusalem Artichokes.  He called me one day recently to say he had left me a bag of them in my garden plot.  He also leaves me wine and vinegar bottles for my project of building borders around my beds (if I ever remember to bring the camera to the garden, I will get pictures of this).  My gardening friends are all very nice.  My son refuses to go to the garden with me anymore because in his words "you say you will only be a minute and you take an hour".  That's because I have to stop and chat with the gardeners - that's part of being a member of a community garden.

Anyhoo, back to the artichokes.  They aren't really artichokes but a member of the sunflower family.  In fact, it's hard to tell the difference from your average sunflower

I have tried these vegetables in the past and have been ambivalent about them.  This time around, I thought I would try them with potatoes in a gratin.  It turned out pretty well but hard to tell what was a potato and what was the artichoke.

They can also be roasted.  This week, I made roast chicken for me and the kids and decided to throw a few into the oven.  There is a fine line between roasted to perfection and explosion in the oven.  The vegetables will explode at a certain point and then taste pretty yucky!

I decided that I just didn't like them and put the bag of the rest of the vegetables on the back porch, to be tossed into the compost.  The frugal side of me then took over as well as the guilty gardener - I don't like to throw anything away so I thought, what else can be made with these?  Soup.  Cream of Artichoke Soup.

So tonight, I made soup.  Simmered the vegetables the onions and carrots in chicken broth and pureed with my swanky new Breville Blender.

Jerusalem Artichokes - cleaned and scrubbed

In the pot with other vegetables

 Chicken broth, made last week.  Once the broth cools, the fat can be skimmed off the top.  Does anyone save this?  I think it's called schmaltz - I don't save the chicken fat because I have jars of lard!

Once everything was soft and blended, I decided it was too thin and needed some thickness.  So I took the rest of the potatoes and boiled them in the soup, then pureed again.  Much better.  Sean suggested adding Harissa which added the right amount of spice.  What soup doesn't taste better with bacon?

The rest of the meal was cheese, bread and salad.  I made the salad dressing with some pureed preserved lemons.  This was brilliant! I read in a blog about taking the rest of one's preserved lemons and just making a puree - so I did.  I could eat the whole jar of this, it's delicious.  I used up the rest of what I had in the fridge - just scraped out the seeds from the lemons and plopped it all in the food processor with the salt, lemon and lemon juice that was in the jar.

The rest of the meal.  There is also homemade fig jam.  The cheese was Salemville Amish Blue and Meadow Creek Grayson - described as having a big beefy taste - which it did - pungent and strong but perfect with the fig jam.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Books read: 2012

I've been keeping a notebook by my bed where I write down the Title, Author and Month Read, for all my books.  The notebook was started in 2005 when I returned a book to the library and then immediately could not remember the author or title!

Here is what I read last year.  The * books are for mother/daughter book group.  I tend towards mysteries and Swedish mysteries - the Swedes are such a dark, depressing people! I jest.  The perks of working in an academic library is Inter Library Loan!   For some of these books, when I say read, I mean skim.  These are only the books that made the trip upstairs, it does not count the books that remain downstairs that I read.  Doesn't everyone have books all over the house that they are reading at once?

January 2012

The Blood Spilt, Asa Larsson
Do One Green Thing, Mindy Pennybacker
The Locavore Way, Amy Cotler
*Purple Heart, Patricia McCormick
It's All About the Bike, Robert Penn


Grow the Good Life, Michelle Owens
The Feast Nearby, Robin Mather
Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick
The Boy in the Suitcase, Lene Kaaberbol
Treasure Island, Sara Levine
Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That,  Henry Alford
French Dirt, Richard Goodman


Last Night at the Lobster, Stewart Nan
*Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Foer (this is the only mother/daughter book in 7 years that I did not read.  I skimmed.  I did not enjoy it)
Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton
Rethinking Aging, Nortin M. Hadler
1000 Mitzvahs, Linda Cohen


Lost Washington, DC, John DeFerraro
Random Acts of Kindness, Conari Press
50 Popular Beliefs That People Think are True, Guy Harrison
The Memory of Blood, Christopher Fowler
Grow Your Food for Free, David Hamilton
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, Alexander McCall Smith
Gardening for a Lifetime, Sydney Eddison
*Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Shiguro


Death and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov
The Knitter's Life List, Gwen W Steege
*How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, Julia Alvarez
Ashes to Dust, Yrsa Sigurdardottir

The Stonecutter, Camilla Lackberg
Penguin Lost, Andrey Kurkov
Onward and Upward in the Garden, Katharine White
How to be Richer, Smarter, and Better Looking Than Your Parents, Zac Bissonnette


*The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, Kristen Levine
When We Were the Kennedys, Monica Wood (this book is a memoir of growing up in Mexico, ME - which is next to Peru, ME where my mother lives)


The Hare With Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal
Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky
The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, Tarquin Hall
Rue Fabre, Jean Claude Germain


Overtime,  Frank Deford
The Beautiful Mystery, Louise Penny (one of my favorite mystery writers)
The Gallows Bird, Camilla Lackberg
Space Chronicles, Neil deGrasse Tyson
We Took to the Woods,  Louise Dickinson Rich (about moving her family to Maine, in 1940's, not far from where my mother lives)


*The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
Murder in the Rue Dumas, M.L. Longworth
Phantom, Jo Nesbo - I really like this author but just could not finish this book - too violent.


Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
*Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan


Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eating from the Pantry

Over the years, I have tried to make a menu plan at the beginning of the week.  As the kids got older, they would help out with the plan and choose a dish each to make.  This weekly menu plan is purely dependent on my mood on Sunday.  Sometimes it would get done and it made the week so much easier, knowing what I was going to cook.  More often than not, no menu plan.

Emma will be 16 in a couple of months and we have discussed having her learn a few dishes to cook She has no interest in cooking so I have never pressed it.  She's very good at baking but needs some skills in the cooking department.  So I have decided to try and resurrect the menu planning.

Grains, spices, vinegar, mom's honey

What would your basic dishes be that I can teach Emma to cook?

Upstairs Freezer.  Yes, Gifford's from Maine, Grape Nut ice cream.  The BEST.

Today, Sean and I took an inventory of the upstairs and downstairs freezers and what I have on the basement shelves.  I need to start cooking from my stores.

 Basement Freezer

Canned goods

1.  Roast chicken - a must

what else?

Here is my inventory list - this doesn't count the pantry - I have all kinds of beans and grains and rice.

What would you make from this list?

Freezer inventory - Upstairs

Parm cheese
Rye flour
Almond meal
Malt powder
Graham cracker crumbs
Toffee bits
Dried figs
Bread crumbs
Sweet dough
Sweet potato fries
French fries
Veggie burgers
Turkey burgers
Hamburger Buns
Buttermilk rolls
Turkey meat
Pork sausage links
Vegetable wontons
Veggie sausage
Pork and celery dumplings
Chicken breast - 1
Butter - 2
Argula pesto - with and without cheese
Basil with oil
Tomato puree cubes
Crushed tomato - 1 pint bag

Basement Shelves

Sweet potatoes
Blackberry jam
Zucchini relish
Pizza sauce
Crushed tomatoes
Zucchini pickles
Green tomato salsa
Dilly beans
Rhubarb grapefruit marmalade
Strawberry jam
Strawberry syrup
Fig jam
Rhubarb vanilla jam

Basement Freezer

Pecans – 2
Butter – 4
Whole wheat flour
Crushed tomatoes – 7 pints
Crushed tomatoes – 2 quarts
Crushed tomatoes – 10 pint bags
Tomato cubes – 3 bags
Cranberries – 1
Chicken stock – 2 quarts
Hot dog buns
Green beans – 7
Tomatillos – 1
Hot peppers – 1 gal
Plum tomatoes – 1 gal
Puree sweet potatoes
Pork loin roast – 7
Fresh pork ham roast – 8
Chicken breasts
2 whole chickens
Ground pork – 7
Bulk sausage – 5
Pork spare ribs - 2
Sausage links - 4
Strawberries – 3 gals
Blackberries – 1 gal
Sour cherries – 1 gal
Peaches – 7 pkgs

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What's in Bloom in the yard

Today is a sunny lovely day.  I walked around the yard and the good ole jasmine has started to bloom.  I'm ambivalent about this plant - if there was actually a wall in the front yard for it to hang over, that would work better than what is happening now.  It's a bit of a thuggish plant for the spot it's in.  At least it can be chopped to the ground every 3-4 years.  This garden is now 9 years old and I look at it thinking that I want to redo the whole thing.  That thought is exhausting!

Skimmia berries.  This plant is dying - I will remove it in the spring

Russian Sage - artistically arranged by Sean

Boxwood - what is the problem here?

Winter Jasmine

Day lily!  Trying to bloom

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Latest knitting adventure

My latest knitting adventure is to make a rug out of t-shirts.  I've always wanted to teach myself how to make a braided rug - bought the book and everything - but it just seems so time consuming and you need a table to set the whole project on.  So, how about knitting?

This video is fun and shows how to make yarn out of a t-shirt

The kids weeded out some t-shirts and I attempted to make a rug last year.

I started on straight needles and switched to what I thought was the same size circular needles - apparently not!

More t-shirts were weeded this fall and I thought I would try again.  Started and finished on size 15 circular needles.  This rug came out much better this time around.  I had to beg Sean for a t-shirt as more was needed to finish.

A simple garter stitch.

The parts of the t-shirt that I didn't use (the neck and sleeves), I plan on using as mulch in the veg garden.  Lay it down between rows of vegetables and cover with straw or compost.  Hopefully that will keep the weeds at bay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Walkway problems

(thanks to all for the plant suggestions - some plants are identified, some are still unknown - I need to do some more research on houseplant sites).

This winter will be the time to work on some garden projects.  Sean and I are planning on making a trip to Community Forklift to scope out supplies.  Here is the list of gardening projects to date to work on.

1.  Sean wants to lay in rocks in the slight slope in the front yard.  He has a vision, not sure what he wants to do.

2.  My door for the vegetable garden needs to be rebuilt/replaced

3.  I read a cool article in Mother Earth News about fitting your rain barrel to run two soaker hoses.

4.  The window to the cold frame broke so I need to find another window the same size or bigger to fit the frame

5.  The project that needs the most attention is addressing the issue of the path on the side of the house.  Here are some pictures

I have stones and dirt.  I need to put something between the stones - but what?

This book,  Revolutionary Yardscape, has some nice ideas that involved tumbled pottery - I don't have a tumber or enough pottery!

I need ideas for this walkway.  There are plants on either side of it but obviously not enough to prevent the dirt from running over the stones.  This is my number one priority for spring.