My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Pileated Woodpecker

This isn't the first occasion we've had the pleasure of seeing a Pileated Woodpecker around the homestead, BUT this was the first time I was able to get a picture.  We usually see one every few months, but they're pretty flighty and don't stay in the same place for long.  I was excited and surprised when I saw this guy on the suet feeder in the front yard this morning. 
Pretty awesome huh?  OK, this picture sucks, you can barely make out the woodpecker. 
But this picture is much better, I got him just as he (or she) was spreading his wings to take off.  You can see the white/black wing markings and the telltale red head (Woody Woodpecker/El Gaucho style). 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pickled Beets

The beets are beginning to require attention again this year. We don't grow beets ourselves, but my parents have them in their garden and they have already given us two big grocery bags full of them. This was on top of the half dozen baggies of frozen beets we had from last year. I decided that we needed to do something more with them than just freezing them, as we were very slow to eat the frozen ones (though John does make a very mean and yummy borscht - see Beets and Borscht and Biscuits). So I decided to try pickling them.

And, I must be honest, it was a very easy process. The most time consuming part is letting the beets boil long enough so that they are tender. Then you put them in cold water and their skins just slide right off. This took about half an hour. I also had to deal with the frozen beets that had already been de-skinned. I put them in the oven to defrost (they were a slightly different texture than the fresh beets and so the verdict is still out on how well they will take to the pickling process).

Once they were de-skinned, I chopped them up into slices and chunks.
Lots of beets.

Chopping beets does make your fingers purple...
After they were chopped up, we packed them into the jars. Then poured the following simmered brine over them:
2 c. water
2 c. vinegar
2 c. sugar
1 t. cloves
1 t. allspice
1 T. cinnamon

We then put the jars in a water bath for 20 minutes and voila - pickled, canned beets!

It was a pretty easy recipe. We haven't yet tried the beets, but I'm optimistic. And, if I don't like them, my mom was very excited about them so we'll give them to her!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hmong Cabbage Dish

When I was in college, and for a few years after graduation, I lived with one of my good college friends, Sue, who is Hmong. Now Sue was very smart and a great writer, but she was not much of a cook. Sue's sister, Kauyer, often lived with us during the summers when she was out of school, and she was a fantastic cook. She exposed me to a variety of Hmong cooking recipes and while I can't really recreate them for a variety of reasons (dietary restrictions, kitchen skills, etc.), over time I learned some of the basics.

One of my favorite Hmong dishes that she made for me was a cabbage dish. Now, that alone was a feat, as I don't think I ever ate cabbage growing up. But cabbage can be mighty tasty if you do it right. Kauyer modified the original cabbage dish for me, as it called for hamburger, but since I am vegetarian, she substituted tofu for me. I'm sure that the hamburger version might be even more tasty due to the grease and flavor of the meat.

Since we are growing lovely, small cabbages, I picked two from our front mound and added the few cherry tomatoes that were picked green before our frost and are ripening in the basement.
These are the other things that I put into the dish: tofu, dehydrated/dried tomatoes (since I didn't have enough fresh ones), tamari sauce (the gluten free version of soy sauce), canola oil to fry the garlic in, bullion for some extra sauce flavoring, sweet chili sauce, and spicy chili sauce. Now I'm sure if Kauyer reads this she might be appalled with all the sauces, as Hmong cooking is very light (as compared with the heavier Chinese cooking) and it often calls for fish sauce and oyster sauce - neither of which I had on hand. So this is my North Dakota-ized Hmong dish.
I'm not going to give you a recipe, as I don't really have one. Start with frying up the garlic in the oil, and then add the cabbage and sauces, tofu, etc. Steam it down. Toward the end, add in the tomatoes for extra flavor (and they will add to the sauce juiciness, too).
I served it with brown rice. It's not the most colorful photo, with brown rice and light green cabbage, but it is yummy.
Try it. You might discover that you like cabbage, too.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Nephew Pics

I realize that it's been a while since I posted any picture of my awesome little nephew back in California.  This is certainly no way for a proud Uncle to behave.
Here's Jacob honing his golf swing.  I have no doubts that he'll be smoking his Dad on the golf course in no time.  Jacob's Dad knows this as well.
Golf practice was followed by story time with Grandpa and Grandma.
All that activity and learning can make you hungry.  What better way to have a snack than to smear jelly across your face.  Playing golf, reading, messy eating...I am indeed a proud Uncle. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shaak Ti's Eating Habits

Shaak Ti is an odd duck, as evidenced by her Plant Friend interactions. But it goes so much farther than that. Another good example of her oddness is that she is the only [healthy and young] dog I have ever known that doesn't just attack her food bowl with vigor. In fact it's often the exact opposite. We're lucky if she eats every other meal (most recently she has chosen to eat her dinner while turning her nose up at breakfast). But if she gets distracted, is visiting Grandpa and Grandma, or just otherwise feels like it, she can go three or four meals without eating much of anything. We try to give her as much time as possible to eat, but since she and Tito eat before Shadowfax (who is always waiting very patiently in her crate while they eat), there is usually a time limit of 15-20 minutes. More than enough time for a normal dog to eat...

Meal time often starts with her laying by her dish watching while Tito eats (she often won't eat until Tito is escorted out of the kitchen).
I often move the dish closer to her in the hopes that she will munch while lounging, which she sometimes does, but often all she does is lick her food and bowl. Sometimes she'll pick up some kibble and spit it out on the floor. Possibly she thinks the kibble tastes better with some dirt and dog hair from the floor stuck on it.
If she licks and mouths enough food, sometimes that will pique her interest in actually eating. In this example, she was actually motivated enough to stand up. But often, she will finish her entire bowl while laying down.
In addition to licking and spitting out her food, she often makes what we call "lava", which is when she shoves her nose into the bowl and fairly violently shoves the food out of the bowl. Sometimes she does this and eventually eats the food in the bowl, and the "lava" on the floor. Other times she just makes a big mess and probably laughs at us as we pick up all the food that she spilled.