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Monday, October 31, 2011

10-29-11 Snowstorm: What I could do better.

I was convinced it would rain.

I was convinced that the always wrong weatherman was predicting the worse and that we would end up, as usual, with the complete opposite.

For once, he was right. Almost. He was a little off on the accumulation part. Details, details.

Go figure.

We lucked out with somewhere between 7-9 inches of very heavy and wet snow. It was so heavy it's hard to say how much we really ended up with.

I dread to even think of what more would have done.  Those measly inches did enough damage.

It started out so light, I assumed the weatherman's prediction of 1-3 inches was going to hold.

But within about 30 minutes it really picked up steam and in no time we were piling on the inches.

By lunch we easily had 3-4 inches. We have satellite TV and when the dish gets snow covered we lose reception. So I hiked outside to clean it off and became instantly alarmed when all I could hear was popping and cracking in the trees.

Thank goodness my HE was on his way home from work.  We also had friends on the way over as they lost power late morning.

HE had picked the wrong back road and had to wind his way around trees that were hanging  in the road and even drove over downed power lines (in his defense he didn't see them or realize it until he was already over them). Scary.

Needless to say it just kept coming down and the thumps of limbs and trees hitting the ground, thankfully not in our yard, became an all day event.

While we lost a lot of large limbs, luckily we only lost this one small maple tree in the driveway. Our 42 oaks have withstood Irene and now this. Whew.

In the afternoon I went on a photo taking expedition, with my HE in tow, he didn't want a limb landing on my head when I wasn't paying attention.  Here's what I saw…

That's our road. Our neighbors all stayed put, for good reason.

That is not my camera lens, that is actually a lot of bending trees, heavy with snow.

But the view of the main road… wow…

Yes that is a tree blocking the right hand lane, and those branches hanging in the far right distance were actually laying on the wires.

Needless to say, we hightailed it back inside and my friend and I went on a fast-paced cooking frenzy to get one last early afternoon large meal… a big seafood one, on the table.

We finished cooking with one minute to spare, then off went the power! Talk about timing.

We watched out the front window as a crazy person out driving in this went 40 mph out of control down the hill and crashed straight through that tree up there.


Limbs kept coming down.

And as 10pm rolled around, our friends learned they had power so they decided to make the trek home and tried to talk us into going with them.  But we decided to stay at home and wait it out.

At 11pm we had to turn our deck into a giant snow pile refrigerator as we had been so long without electricity everything was becoming to warm in the fridge and items in the freezer were defrosting!  I did not want to lose all my hard picked berries!

Sunday everything started melting like crazy and we were lucky to see some turkeys in the backyard.

Still without power we made the trek into my HE's work, and picked up a propane camping stove and refilled our water containers that we use for toilet flushing in power outages.

We were thrilled to learn while out gathering supplies that our electricity had been restored.

21 hours without. 
That was nothing, we were lucky, so many still do not have it.

When it comes to being prepared I really like to pride myself on it.  I don't believe in being caught off guard. I am huge into preparation for emergencies for my family.

While I felt strongly prepared with this storm bearing down on us, it became very apparent quite early that I had overlooked quite a few things. One day without power is not too bad, but when you potentially could face multiple days, in cold weather, it's important to be prepared.

This year has been very hard on our area with heavy, constant rains, freak flooding, and now an early snowstorm. I dread what this winter might bring. Better to be safe than sorry.

Here is what I learned:

  • First off, our successes:
  1. Well prepared with water for flushing and a well-stocked pantry is something we were proud of.
  2. I always keep us well supplied with an emergency back up of food, drinking water and plenty of 'other water' to be used for flushing, clean up, etc..  I am prepared for the long haul in this department and there were no worries at all about food or drink. It also helps that I can think on the fly and creatively cook anything into a meal.
    • Covering the fire pit and having dry wood/kindling ready
    • Closing off off the rooms we could long before the power went out to conserve heat in the main living areas.
    • Our not-quite failures, but not successes either
    1. forgot to fill the tub with extra water for flushing. oops. would have been nice since we quickly went through 10 gallons of our 20 gallon stock. A hazard of having a 5 year old that doesn't understand not being able to flush.
    2. learned, and was greatly disappointed that we had not thought about a 2nd back up for cooking and water heating.

    Generally, we always have our very large and ready to use fire pit for those needs. I can cook anything over an open fire and am prepared to do so. But… we were not prepared for heavy falling limbs. Our fire pit has three trees that surround it. It was too dangerous, even the next day to light it. A hazard of living in the woods.

    We do not have a grill. Sadly, they rust more than we use them, so we just never replaced our last one.

    • We have resolved this now with a portable camping stove ready to go, and propane at the ready. We always have a bottle of propane on hand.
    • Lighting! OH my I seemed to have really overlooked this. This was my huge failure. I was really upset with myself about this one.
    I have a stock of emergency candles, not regular candles, these are actually slow burning, low wax candles for emergency use. We also have plenty of flashlights. 

    But wow, we burnt through those candles and my fear of a multi-day outage made me realize that rechargeable batteries are inefficient when you have no way to charge them.

    So now I am putting together a new emergency lighting kit that will contain:
    • a solar & hand crank powered lantern
    • a hand crank powered flashlight
    • 2 oil lamps and back up oil
    • restock of my emergency candles, and in addition to my stock of wooden matches and small feral rod, I will be adding refillable lighter.
    If anyone has any recommendations of solar/hand crank lanterns please comment below. I'd be strongly disappointed to buy one and have it fail the first use.

    I'm curious, how prepared are you for an emergency or extended power outage?
    What's in your emergency prepard-ness kit?

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Mother Nature is in a Bad A$$ Mood...

    You know how I always mention the 42 oak trees we have in our yard?

    They've only dropped about half of their leaves so far this autumn.

    And they are soaking wet.

    Because it hasn't stopped raining long enough for them to dry out.

    And now it's going to snow.

    That is bad news for anyone with as many leaves as us.  All of our neighbors are out clearing their leaves in a frantic hurry today.

    I am not a fan of cleaning up heavy, wet, rotting leaves. Who is?

    So I donned my spandex yoga pants and cotton knit lightweight long-sleeved pullover and strapped on our 25 lb., 210 mph commercial strength leaf blower and headed out into our leaf covered yard.

    Working at a frantic and aggressive pace, I shuffled and jogged from one part of our yard to the next with that 25 lb. leaf blower on my back like it was nothing. [seriously, I was awesome]

    I power ran up our 20 foot embankment with such bravado even the toughest crossfitter would have been impressed.

    Blasting leaves and acorns with hurricane force winds, shredding the few flowering plants I have left in my flower beds, and peppering my face with mulch, nothing stopped me.

    Wet leaves were smacking me in the face and sticking to my spandexed rear-end.

    I gave our neighbors a show they won't soon forget.

    While they sat inside, most likely eating the bread, eggs and milk, they surely ran to the store for this morning, I'm pretty sure they were awestruck with my leaf clearing display.

    It was impressive.

    I was a leaf clearing bad ass.

    So bring it on Mother Nature, you and your bad ass freakish October snow storm.

    See if I care.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Dried Herb Blend

    I'm pushing through my massive two page to-do list of home projects. While I'm not hitting all the projects I had scheduled for each day, if things keep going well, I have hope of 'catching up' by the weekend.

    One thing on my list was to harvest all my remaining container herbs this weekend and dry them.

    this pile was much bigger in person

    Originally, I was going to dry them all separately then combine into my standard herb blend.

    When I saw THIS POST from The Wednesday Chef back in August, I immediately bookmarked it because I knew I had to try it.

    I definitely did not have enough Rosemary, even though I planted three of them this year, they grow so slow and I use so much of it, that there just wasn't enough.  Even my Sage was getting scraggly and hardly yielded one handful.

    So I decided I would just throw my standard herb blend together:

    • Oregano
    • Marjoram
    • Rosemary
    • Thyme

    Then add in the little bits of other herbs that I had left:

    • Sage
    • Parsley (I had a lot of this, so I just used about one large handful)
    • Lemon Thyme
    • Basil (I only had a few leaves thanks to all the rain, remember this post)

    I only added 6 cloves of garlic because in the end I had about half of my food processor full, and a scarce tablespoon of sea salt.

    After processing, it looked like this:

    And smelled very green and garlicky.

    Our entire house reeked of garlic for about 2.5 days.  It was very overbearing.

    HE remarked about it constantly, and not in a good way!  Next time I'll have to lock it in an unused room to preserve my sanity.

    Four days later, I have this perfectly dried and incredibly fragrant herb blend:

    The 'green' smell is gone and now smells like the perfectly pleasing combination of all the herbs I used. Even the Jelly Bean keeps smelling it and saying 'yummmmmmy'.

    I baked a chicken with some two nights ago and yum, I'm in love.

    I'm pretty sure I'll be drying all my herbs like this each year.

    Now I just need to find more space so I can plant A LOT more herbs.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Do you know...

    Do you know where your food comes from… the farmer that grew it?

    Do you know what it is made from and what all the ingredients are that are in it?

    Do you know if it was grown with GMO seed and drenched in cancer causing insecticides?

    Would you still eat the same foods if the the third question was true?

    Sadly, if you are eating processed, pre-made foods that are not organic, you probably are.

    I spend some time each day reading news articles. While the top news stories can always be found on the nightly news programs I find the that real truths are being written by journalists and organizations that may never see that air time.

    Who's reporting finds airtime not on television but on the internet, passed from person to person that like me, is concerned.

    That like me wishes that more than this little circle of Facebook article post-ers will read the article and care, and maybe just one more person will realize things are out of control.

    Food is out of control. Or better, out of our control.

    Glorified packaging and propaganda filled commercials trick our minds into believing that mayonnaise can bring families together.

    That buying fast food children's meals will mean we love them, and artificially colored, high fructose corn syrup laden sweets will fill us with joy.

    Am I the only one that sees the horror in this?

    I want to know that the seeds I put in the ground are pure.

    I want to know that the food I grow or buy is real and not tampered with by science. That the genes in the plants that grow my food are the ones that have been there for generations, carefully cultivated by the loving hand of a farmer. Not altered in a lab.

    I want everyone to care. I want a lot.

    This country cares more about who is going to win American Idol than the food they put in their mouth.

    I don't want to tell you what's wrong with all the pretty boxes of food you buy.

    I want you to educate yourself, be proactive in your food choices.

    Pick one thing that you love to eat and contact the company and ask them some questions.

    Ask them if their product is made with GMO foods or grown with the use of toxic chemicals and insecticides. Be specific, ask very specifically. 

    You might be surprised, and most likely disgusted.

    Some will blatantly admit that yes, their products contain GMO foods.

    Some will dance around the subject and not answer you directly, or give you responses touting the benefits of GMOs.

    The best one I received touted the benefits and safety of GMO crops and then fed me this line: 

    "In labeling our products, we carefully follow the labeling regulations of each country
    where we sell our products. Genetically modified ingredients are identified where required."

    Read it again, tricky aren't they?

    Some countries require labeling, the U.S. does not.

    The fact of the matter is for every one person that cares, there are thousands and thousands that don't.

    We need to change that.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Roasted Green Beans & Spiced Honey Delicata Squash Recipes

    I'm going to be insanely sore tomorrow. We spent almost 6 hours today heating, scraping and sanding our entry double doors so I can repaint them this week. Wow. That doesn't include the rest of the sanding we did on additional trim. I'm wiped.

    I've blocked myself off of work until next Sunday so that I can blast through our last home projects, tackle some repainting and sprucing up of things, and de-clutter the crap out of every single room, closet, drawer in this house.

    Simple meals all week.

    But... here are two side dishes I served up the other night with the chuck roast I made. These were so good, both HE and the Jelly Bean ate every last bite.

    FYI… the roast beef and gravy sandwiches I mentioned yesterday made with the leftovers were a totally bangin' dinner last night. All I did was reheat the shredded roast with the leftover gravy, throw it on some bread with a slice of provolone and called it dinner.

    These are my real world measurements based on a pinch of this, pinch of that cooking method.  You can't go wrong, don't fret over exact measurements.

    Just have fun and cook.

    I'll come back later and add the printer friendly versions, right now I need sleep (and to watch some football).

    Roasted Garlic & Parsley Green Beans

    For each handful of green beans:

    • loose handful of fresh parsley leaves
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • pinch or two of sea salt
    • small squeeze of lemon juice, about 1 tsp
    • teaspoon of melted coconut oil (as in a cereal spoon, not a measuring spoon)
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If you are using stoneware, preheat the stones simultaneously with your oven so they are good and hot when you are ready for them.

    Wash and trim the ends off of your green beans.

    To chop your parsley, gather it up tightly, then keeping your fingers up off the cutting board and slight turned under, slowly make thin slices as you work your way through the pile.

    Turn the pile then gather up tightly again and slice the same as above.

    Melt your coconut oil if it's solid, then add it with the green beans, parsley, minced garlic and squeeze of lemon juice to a bowl and mix well.

    Spread out on a tray (I baked on a small stoneware pan), for about 10 minutes, until roasted but still slightly tender.

    You may need to adjust time based on the type of tray you use and your oven.

    Serve immediately.

    Spiced Honey Delicata Squash

    • 1 delicata squash
    • teaspoonful of honey (I used some awesome goldenrod honey from a friend who has his own hives)
    • 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice, you can be generous with this measurement
    • teaspoonful of coconut oil, melted
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If you are using stoneware, preheat the stones simultaneously with your oven so they are good and hot when you are ready for them.

    Slice your delicata lengthwise and using a spoon scoop out seeds.

    Slice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick slices.

    ok, so my honey was a little crystalized

    Mix honey, spice and coconut oil together as best you can, pour over squash in bowl and mix to coat well.

    Lay on tray, cut side down and bake for 7-10 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and tender when pierced with fork.

    Serve immediately. Eat with a smile, you made it and it tasted awesome. :]

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Saturday ...

    8:05 am:  Slept in but shouldn't have… up and hurried to get ready for soccer.

    8:45 am:  Run out the door, literally, to soccer game. [no time for coffee]

    9:00 am:  Soccer game starts. [still no coffee]

    9:30-10:00 am:  Work concession stand. [OMG I need coffee]

    10:15 am: Arrive home from soccer game, make the Jelly Bean a celebratory hot chocolate. [warming up coffee maker]

    10:30 am:  Finally, coffee. Major clean up of kitchen due to canning apple butter at 12:30 am.

    WTH is wrong with me? Does anyone else can in the wee hours of the morning?

    10:50 am:  Throw ingredients in bread machine for 1.5 lb loaf of whole wheat (not GF bread). Get distracted and start putting dishes away. Realize what I did then go back to measuring bread ingredients. Get distracted  by Jelly Bean who needed a snack. Finish putting dishes away. Realized yet again I still had not finished the bread, so jumped back to that and got it going.

    Hi My name is Christine and I have ADD.

    11:05 am:  Throw ingredients in crock pot for Slow Cooker Oatmeal & Raisin Breakfast, to fuel us over the next few days as I/we begin a nine day stretch of home improvement and de-cluttering projects.

    11:20 am: Make Gluten Free Rolls [recipe to come] for tonights super easy dinner of:

    [we have a long afternoon of outside flower bed clean up and leaves, so easy & filling dinner needed]

    11:35am:  Make Iced Tea and double check seals on last nights apple butter…

    11:45 am:  Clean up and put away dishes used, make lunch for me and the jelly bean.

    Since we were down to that last little chunk of bread that would most likely mold by tomorrow and a new loaf was already baking, I cubed what was left to make croutons.

    • Cut into 1/2" cubes and toast in 200 degree oven until dry all the way through.
    • Let cool completely, then store in tightly sealed container.

    12:45 pm:  finish up this blog post and move on to:

    • Make Gluten Free Oatmeal Walnut Cookies [recipe to come]
    • Put kitchen completely back in order
    • Gather seeds from Basil, marigolds and any other plants/herbs outside that are ready.
    • Tear down planters that are done for the season and clean out all flower beds
    • Leaves. Leaves. Leaves.
    • Run to our local home improvement store for paint and supplies
    • Grocery Shopping
    • Maybe throw more apple butter in the crockpot later tonight, maybe just do that tomorrow.
    • Pass out from exhaustion
    Tomorrow… those roasted green beans and delicata squash recipes.. promise!

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Go-To Recipe: How To Cook A Chuck Roast

    I am a carnivore.

    I try to be a responsible one and buy from local farms, where cows get to eat grass and be happy cows.

    I have vegan friends, and since I am cooking a chuck roast today, I thought I'd give them a heads up and they can tune this post out. :]

    So no one has to see a photo they don't want to in the post preview, I'll start out with a sneak peek photo of the apple butter that's slowly cooking down on my counter…

    Ok, that really didn't show much. :]

    When you buy your meat from the grocery store, the cuts are pretty standard and the choices aren't very varied. It's all labeled, and other than size and some marbling each week the little packages all look the same.

    When you buy from a local farm or butcher, it's much different. I'm always amazed at the cuts and variety and usually have no idea what most of it is.  Luckily the people behind the counter are super helpful.

    I also love, that if there is something I want and they don't have any out, they just go in the back and cut it for me.

    I like to buy with more than one meal in mind.  If I'm going to spend hours cooking a roast, I'll be darned I want to get more than one meal out of it.

    Which is why one of my favorite cuts lately has been the bone in chuck roast, which looks like this:

    It looks small in this photo, but trust me it was huge. If you've never cooked one, don't fear, it's really super easy, and a very tender cut when cooked properly. My favorite and least amount of work method is braising. Simply sear both sides, cook in liquid in oven several hours. Done.

    I love that it's got some good fat on it and also the bones in it… marrow = good nutrition.

    How to Cook a Chuck Roast
    [printer friendly]
    • 2-3 lb Chuck Roast
    • 1" slice of an onion (i used a yellow onion)
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • Big handful of herbs:  oregano, thyme, rosemary
    • 2 cups of water
    • Rendered fat (I used leftover bacon fat) or oil with a high smoke point such as coconut oil
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Roughly chop onion.

    Strip leaves from herbs and roughly chop. [photo is pre-chop]

    In a small bowl mix water, garlic, onion and herbs just to break everything up. Set aside.

    Heat a dollop (like a spoonful) of fat or oil in a cast iron pan on medium high heat.

    Season roast with salt and pepper on both sides.

    Sear first side until browned then flip and sear other side, about 5-7 minutes on each side. It will look like this:

    Transfer to a deep baking dish or pan (I use well-seasoned stoneware) or if you have a large enough dutch oven that would be perfect.

    Pour herb mixture over and distribute herbs/onion/garlic evenly on and around the roast.

    Cover tightly.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 2.5-3 hours covered, or until meat is tender and easily pulls apart with fork or impatient fingers that don't mind getting burnt.

    Unfortunately, my 'done' photo was blurred due to steam.

    Remove from oven and let rest for about 20 minutes while you prepare your side dishes.

    Strain the broth and either keep it to make a small serving of soup or turn it into gravy.

    Heat up strained broth in a small saucepan to boiling.
    Mix 1 Tbsp Organic Corn Starch with 1/4 cup cold water and add to boiling broth, stirring with whisk until thickened.

    I served this up with gravy, roasted garlic and parsley green beans [from our driveway planters] and roasted honey and spice delicata squash…recipes HERE.

    He and the Jelly Bean licked their plates clean.  That roast was so tender I'm amazed I was the one who cooked it.  ;]

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