Local Colour

Here’s a fine example of something that should be seen, and not heard:

Mr Pheasant

These pheasants make a noise that sounds something like a car starter being turned after the car is already running.

Mr Pheasant, too

This guy & his missus have taken over our property, strutting about in full ownership mode.

They might be even better tasted than seen, but that’s not a direction I’m planning to pursue.

Roasted

Merry merry!  Best wishes of the season.

 It’s certainly been merry here.

An important point about message fragmentation.  Here are 2 very
different messages, each starting with the same first chunk:

  1. We found the roasting pan we thought we’d given away.
  2. We found the roasting pan we thought we’d given away, but it’s
    not in fit condition to use for food preparation, you’d best bring
    yours again.

Guess which version of the communication I had, right up to the point
when I was hotting up the oven and ready to pop in the turkey I’d
volunteered to prepare  chez
les beaux parents
this year?  πŸ™‚ 

The roasting pan was lurking under the shelves in the basement
workshop, a WWII-generation looking thing that had been gathering dust
for more years than I’ve been cooking. And the worst-looking kind of
dust (and rust).   There weren’t great alternatives, so I
consented to see what DH could do to clean it up — convincing him to
use cooking oil to scrub it with, not inedible WD40…  And when
successive wipes with a paper towel were still coming away with bits of
rust, I wiped it down with canola oil and threw it into the already hot
oven to seal it.   Apart from having to position a standing
fan by the oven to direct the inevitable smoke towards the windows
(away from the alarm-company wired-in smoke detector), that did the
trick rather nicely.

uboat

I’ve decided it has the character of a cast iron pan — a little oil
and TLC, and it comes through like a champ.

turkey

Note the rounded bottom — no nasty corners to catch and hide cooking
food.

I think I know the perfect home for this old champ.

A propos of nothing in
particular,   Christmas sunset over Waterloo Lake:

sunset

When a Good Cookie Goes Bad…

Last week, I did my Christmas (cookie) marathon, constructing and
baking 4 different batches of cookies through the week, and another 4
on Saturday.  It’s not like there’s  a lack of other things
going on this month — I just broke them up into stages and wove the
different stages (dough, shaping, resting, baking, decorating) in and
around other things.

Usually, the star performer in my Christmas cookie plate is Alton
Brown’s Chocolate
Peppermint Pinwheel
.  I’ve been known to (have to) make more
than one batch of them in a season.

This year, it was a good cookie gone very, very bad…

gone bad

Note how the chocolate layer is broken/breaking off.

one bad cookie

I’m still not really sure what happened, though I have a
suspicion.  The cookies are made by making one batch of butter
cookie dough, splitting it in half, adding peppermint flavouring to
half of it and chocolate to the rest.  I.e., the base cookie dough
is the same in the whole cookie.

When I went to roll the doughs out, the chocolate dough was hard.  It actually clattered
when it hit the counter.  This was straight out of the fridge, so
I waited to see if it would behave any better when warmed.  My
suspicion is that I didn’t split the dough evenly enough, and that
threw off the ratio of melted chocolate to dough in the chocolate
segment.  So, it was hard chocolate hitting the counter.  I
wound up having to heat the dough in the microwave (for 30 seconds) to
be able to roll it out — but it never behaved like a cohesive whole,
as is witnessed by the broken bits above.

Oh, well.  Still tasty.  But I don’t think I can put them in
Christmas cookie gifts!

The beauty of doing 8 batches is that, for every failure such as the
above, there are successes… The raspberry
jam-filled, chocolate dipped
ones seem to have come out okay.

jam filled

And, the ginger bread condescended to let me roll it out and cut it
this year.

ginger cat

Cheese: an Explanation

Let me explain something. 

This:

Cheese plate -- Paris

is a cheese plate.

And this:

wanna-brie

is a wanna-brie .

Opening up the familiar wood box, I was astonished to find a sealed
plastic tub inside.  Think of the “hankie” scene from the opening
of “The Commitments”.

Look more closely at the labelling — from the country that has to
label when its cheese is food:

brie cheese food

spred

It is, indeed, “CheezWhiz” with brie flavour undertones. 

And, lest there be any doubt about its “real”ness — check the
ingredients, the first of which is “natural cheese”.  Cheddar
cheese, no less.

contents

It is a relief to know it contains dairy.

Wow.

How to make 3 lbs of butter seem small

I have found one sure fire way to make 3 lbs of butter seem like not
much of a big deal — and it has to do with Christmas cookies.

For whatever reason, even as there is no time for (m)any of the usual
sorts of holiday things, such as decorating our home, I hang on to
making Christmas cookies.   Perhaps it’s because:  if I
make them, I get to decide if they’re good (and I don’t make any yucky
ones — again, by my
definition πŸ™‚ ).

So, in this brief period of actually being at home, I pulled out my various
recipes, selected which ones I’d like to make this year, and started
totting up various repetitive ingredients, to make sure I’d have enough
sugar, flour, nuts, chocolate (I said they’re good) and butter.  I came up
to 98 tbsp of butter required.  Ninety-eight.  And there are
4 tbsp per quarter cup.  My quick math suggested:   SIX
POUNDS OF BUTTER?!

Fortunately, I was corrected (thanks, Mom!) — 4 tbsp per quarter CUP,
not per quarter pound.    So, it’s only 3 pounds (and 2
tbsp) of butter for all these cookies.  See?  Seems like
hardly anything, now πŸ˜‰

For my next trick — I’ll figure out how to make the amount of time
needed to make the cookies undergo a similar transformation… wish me
luck.

Yarn Surprise

The other day, DH approached me with a box of yarn in hand, prompting
me to retreat and utter some sailorly language.  The attentive
will note that this is not my expected reaction to yarn; certainly, it
was not what DH might have expected.

The problem was that it was a box that had been hiding in the basement
(no difficult feat, given the number of ignored boxes down
there).  It was a box full of remnants of yarns from projects gone
by — projects from 2 decades ago, and more.   Some of the
labels on these acrylic yarns were from department stores — back when
Zellers & Eaton’s had their own house brand of yarn!

I don’t feel I can throw it out — it is, after all Perfectly Good
Yarn.  It’s just not something I want to knit with
anymore.   And there isn’t really enough of any given
colour/weight to just give it away.  (I also have troubles with
the concept: “I’m done with this crap — I thought you might like 
it.”)

Really, the issue is that my current stash is already seriously
bursting out of its generous storage space (some 14 stacking plastic
filer drawers).  I don’t want more space to store yarn:  I
want to knit down the beautiful yarns I’ve already got in hand! 
So, in some sense, the reaction to the box was that it was like having
a box of “time you don’t have” waved under my nose.  Sigh. 
Knew that already.

I did go through the box and mostly filed away the bits and ends —
including the letter that accompanied the return of the project in
progress as the Sweater
Curse
kicked in.  Now, that
was a while ago…

EoM

And so endeth the month (of blogging daily). 

sunset

There was a post for each day in November 2008 (even if the timestamps
sometimes pushed an entry into the next day!).

I found it an interesting experiment.  It was definitely
challenging to come up with something
for each and every day.  Some days were particularly challenging
— when there’d been nothing but meetings all day, a long dinner and I
was searching for something to say, outside of my immediate headspace,
at 1am.    But, by virtue of pressing on anyway, I did
get over some writers block like hurdles, I suppose. 

I observe that relatively few posts were about knitting.  I’m not
sure if this was a typical month in that regard:  I am not a
highly prolific knitter, I guess, but that’s not news.

I’m not sure what I will do with this space going forward.  I
doubt I will continue posting at the same rate:  I’m not sure I
need this in my every day, and I’m quite convinced the world does not
need my daily blather πŸ™‚    On the other hand, without
the pressure to put something up every day, I wonder if I will lapse to
the semi-annual posting rate I was supporting previously?  We’ll
just have to see.

This also ends our week on Grand Manan.  Time to head back to the
mainland and wend our way down south, to get back into our usual
routine and wind up for the holidaze.

Beach Glass

Beach:

Stanley Beach

Beach glass:

beach glass cat shadow

beach glass close up

Wikipedia gets it right in observing that beach glass is a strange
phenomenon — an odd case where something more valuable is created from
man-made litter.  “Beach glass” is remnants of (usually coloured)
glass articles that have been broken and distributed in the sea,
carried and tumbled by time and tide, to the point where it is
smoothed, etched, and gently colourful.

Die-hard beach glass combers can identify the source of the glass by
colour.  Blue is said to be pretty uncommon nowadays, as it came
from Noxema bottles — and Noxema has been distributed in plastic jars
for years already.

As littering and dumping are hopefully lessening, world wide, and fewer
products are available in glass containers, the availability of
“natural” beach glass should diminish in coming years.

This yields the delicate irony that lessening garbage in the ecosphere
is making beach glass a non-renewable resource.

Duck a la Something or Other

Faced with the question of “what are the top kitchen appliances you
would bring to an island”, I can tell you I include “slow cooker” on my
list.

This week’s culinary challenge was to prepare a reasonable Thanksgiving
dinner in a kitchen that has virtually no staples (can’t reasonably
keep liquids between visits — they’ll freeze) and an incomplete
battery of kitchen tools.  Oh, and it’s in a part of the world not
celebrating Thanksgiving this week.

I came away from the grocery store on Tuesday without turkey, but
rather a frozen duck, and incomplete thoughts about what to do with it
(mindful of all the fat that can make the duck experience less than
stellar).     The slow cooker seemed like a good
way to cook it, as I don’t especially care about the skin being crispy,
and I figured that would be a nice moist cooking of the duck.  I
found a recipe
for “Imperial Duckling”
on the net, and decided to follow it,
loosely.  (I couldn’t get my hands on currant jelly; I had no
tarragon; I backed away from the orange, somewhat).

In the meantime, I started thinking about braised cabbage.  I have
a family traditional recipe for braised cabbage with partridges. 
Rather than browning the cabbage in bacon fat, maybe I could put the
duck fat to good use?

In the end, the long and the short of it is that I slow-cooked the
duck, and threw in cabbage & onion partway through the
cooking.  There was much draining of fat along the way — as
someone observed, ducks are mostly fat and bone, with not much meat in
between.

Some pictures of the dinner…

Note the more-than-one cup of fat siphoned off the duck during cooking:

Duck done

Duck on a bed of cabbage — closeup:

Duck

Orange-cranberry-port-caraway sauce:

Sauce

Plated!

plated!

Remains after serving 2 portions (i.e., lots of bones, a little bit of
meat):

Remains

Dessert — I had no real ingredients to work with, and did not want
leftovers we could not use past Sunday.  So, I went with a box:

Dessert from a box

And, I have to say, they were Very Tasty!

sticky toffee pudding

And, oh yeah, the duck actually tasted quite good — overall, the slow
cooker experiment rates as a success!