Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Secret Behind Closed Doors

Something happens in our house we don't like to talk about much, being the animal-friendly folks we are.  Critters aren't long for the world upon entering the doors.  And it's not pretty - they are tortured and eviscerated. 

Sometimes it's quick, and over in a relatively short 20 minutes.  Other times the offenders drag it out, making the torture last months and months before finally obliterating the critter.

Caught in the act!  Poor hedgehog.

Kinsey, you have a little something something in your beard...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking: Park Cafe's Gypsy Burrito (Vegan Curry Burrito)

When we were in Montana last month we went to Park Cafe in St. Marys.  It was in East Glacier, the less popular but prettier (in my opinion) side of Glacier National Park.  We went there because our friends had recommended their pie and after a 10 mile hike through Siyeh pass nothing sounded better.  When we got there and finally secured a spot at the counter (the place was packed!) we found out they were closing their doors for good two days later.

They were running out of things left and right.  We overheard one waitress tell a customer "You ordered a Greek Salad but we are out of Greek dressing and feta.  So how about Italian dressing and cheddar instead?"  Another waiter promised a customer they still had bbq chicken only to go into the back to find out they had just run out.

I was lucky and got my first choice: A Gypsy Burrito.  I am also lucky someone took a picture of the menu and burrito and posted it to flicker!

The description was this: curry spices season this blend of potatoes, yams, parsnips, onions, carrots, coconut milk, and garbanzo beans, wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with a tangy pineapple salsa and cashews.  Here is my version:

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 medium potatoes, medium chopped*
1 large carrot, medium chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, medium chopped
1 can chickpeas
1 can coconut milk
1 T curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour tortillas
Pineapple salsa and pecans

Saute onion in olive oil until brown.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Add all ingredients except tortillas, salsa and nuts and cook on low for 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.  Stir occasionally.  When potatoes are tender, fill tortillas with curry mixture and top with pineapple (or any fruit) salsa and nuts.

What did the meat lover/chickpea hater think?

Success!  It was also a really easy slow cooker meal, perfect for a busy and chilly Sunday.  It is on the to make list again for sure.

The only thing better would have been a slice of razzleberry pie a la mode to end the meal.

*In writing this recipe I was curious about the difference between diced and chopped was.  This website has a definition.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Homemade Pantry: Green Tomato Apple Chutney

On Tuesday night this week the forecast called for below freezing temperatures (first time this fall) so I went out and cleared our tomato bushes.  I've made this green tomato curry in the past and it is okay -- good for produce otherwise destined for the compost pile -- but wanted to try something different.  I came across this recipe which called for green tomatoes and apples, which we have a lot of from our CSA.  (So. Many. Apples.) I also had variations of all the other ingredients, so I gave it a go.

First taste was a thumbs up, I imagine it will be a good addition to this meal
Adapted from David Lebowitz

Yield: a bit more than a pint

2 cups green tomatoes, sliced into bite size pieces (no need to peel)
1 large apple, sliced into bite size pieces (no need to peel)
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 jalepeno pepper, partly deseeded, (more if you like things spicy)
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon garam marsala
1 1/2 teaspoons course ground mustard
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  During the last ten minutes stir every 30 seconds or so to make sure the bottom layer doesn't burn.

Note: this is not a canning recipe, I don't know if there is adequate vinegar to keep the ph in the safe zone.  I plan to freeze what we won't use in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall House To-Do List

Checking in on the summer house to do list:

1. Paint the game room and the dining room. Done!



2. Finish the downstairs bathroom. Done!  See pictures here.
3. Make the courtyard a nice space for entertaining. Done!  Thanks to Kevin's parents we even added a table and chairs.

4. Buy a pool table and set up the game room. Soon!

So let's add to the list for the fall.

1. Paint our bedroom grey.
2. Thoughtfully decorate the downstairs walls.
3. Weed and plant bulbs for the front yard.
4. Set up the third bedroom as a guest room/office.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Three Days in Santa Fe

Last week we took a quick trip to Santa Fe, NM, spending three full days there.  It seems like we had just gotten back from out west only to turn around and head back out there.  Over the summer, when fall seemed so far away, my mom said she wanted to go visit our friends Louise and Dean who live in Santa Fe.  She and I often take trips together so I said I'd like to go along.  My dad and Kevin quickly said they wanted in too so it ended up being a family vacation.

The day we got there we had lunch, took a walk in their neighborhood, took a nap, caught up with Louise and Dean, and tried to keep our eyes open until 9pm MST after having gotten up at 4am EST to make our flights.

Our first full day there Dean, Kevin and I broke from the pack and hiked up Mt. Atalaya right in downtown Santa Fe.  It was a short but steep hike up (about 2.5 miles to the top) and gave us great views of Santa Fe and the Rio Grande valley.

After our hike we had lunch at a brewery and then relaxed for the rest of the day.

Our second full day we drove out to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu.  We drove by Georgia O'Keefe's home and hiked a 3 mile trail that gave us a good view of the Piedra Lumbre basin, which O'Keefe frequently painted.

On the way down I took a wrong turn that lead us back up and around to the top.  The crew was not pleased once we realized we were back at our starting point but they ended up blaming Kevin for it.  He took the teasing good naturedly and didn't out me as the leader who went wrong.

After Ghost Ranch we spent the afternoon at Ojo Caliente spa.  It has natural hot springs they've cultivated into various pools ranging from 89-107 degrees.  I hopped from one pool to another, stopping to lounge in a hammock a couple of times.  It was really relaxing.

Day 3 (last full day) we drove up the Sangre de Cristo Mountain to the ski resort base (a winter trip may be in our future).  We hiked along a trail there for a bit and then wandered around downtown Santa Fe. We stopped to eat a frito pie, which had recently been a source of much uproar after Anthony Bourdain's bad review.

Overall it was very relaxing and great to catch up with Louise and Dean as well as spend some time with my mom and dad.  Living so far away from Louise and Dean means we don't see them that often.  I am glad Kevin came along and got to spend some time getting to know them.  At 67 and 74 respectively, they are our models for aging.  They are still very active, hiking up mountains, doing yoga, playing basketball and traveling around the world.  Later this month they are headed to South Africa and Madagascar for a 5 week trip.

It was also nice to go the the Southwest.  Kevin and I agree that while we like visiting deserts, we wouldn't want to live in one.  I would like the 300 days of sun though, that would be nice.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Learning DSLR Photography - Aperature

One of my goals for this year is to improve my photography.  In September I went to a photo hike that Lori & Erin organized.  I was one of only a few non-professional photographers there so I happily monopolized Lori's time, asking her to teach me about my canon.

We worked on Aperature (also called F-Stop just to make it confusing).  I learned that aperature is how much light the camera will let in.  The higher the aperature (1/22 for example) the less light gets in.  Lori told me a good way to think about it is as fractions.  A low fraction number is actually bigger - 1/4 cup is bigger than 1/8.  It works the same way in photography - an F-Stop of 3.5 will let in more light than an F-Stop of 5.8.

This is important when trying to pinpoint a depth of field.  A low F-Stop (so a lot of light) will give you a shallow depth of field.  In other words, part of the picture will be in focus and part will blurred.  A high F-Stop will give you a sharper image, everything will be in focus.  But since it is not letting in a lot of light (high F-Stop means less light) there needs to be a lot of natural light (outside during the day).

I set my camera to the semi-automatic (AV) mode and played around.  None of these pictures are very good but I'm just learning so please be kind...

   (low F-Stop)
 (vs. high F-Stop)
 I don't see much of a difference - I suppose Erin is slightly more in focus in the second image.

(low F-Stop)
 (high F-Stop)
 (something that just made the whole picture blurry)

I'll keep working on it.  

Some other photos from the hike that I liked:

I got the difference in these two photos by changing the automatic white balance.  I didn't even know I could do that (or what it is - next lesson perhaps?).  I'm glad Lori was there to show me!

And a few of Roxy just for good measure.  I left Kinsey at home.  I figured two dogs would be too  much since I did want to play around with the camera and knew we'd be going Roxy's pace.

(Always eating and drinking things - and she wonders why she gets sick).

And a few of the sunset over the water.  We do live in a very pretty place!

Until the next lesson!