Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Peel Garlic

This is a short post, but a good one. How do you peel garlic? Many people don't... they buy it pre-peeled because they don't want to waste their time on it. A few know to put a broad knife over a clove, give it a slight smack to loosen the paper-like wrapping, and then peel. In fact, that's how I did it for years. Then I learn this neat-o method.

Step 1. Break apart cloves in a head of garlic and put them in a bowl.

Step 2. Cover the bowl and shake the daylights out of it.

Step 3. Open the bowl to reveal all your garlic cloves have been peeled! Put the peeled cloves in the fridge to store.

I know... right?!?! Why is this not common knowledge?

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spinning Wheel Bliss

Rebel, rebel, represent... yeh, I got a spinning wheel. I couldn't help myself, I've been obsessing ever since I took spinning classes at Beelighted in Zumbrota, MN. It took a while to afford one. Despite dreams of a forlorn wheel someone would sell of cheap, there is really no such thing. Spinning wheels, even old ones, start at about $300.

The wheel I got (picture above) is a cheaper model by Kromski called the Prelude. It is a single drive wheel with Scotch tension. It comes with 2 extra spindles and a version of a built in Lazy Kate to ply yarns from. The wheel above is unfinished; if you follow the link to the Prelude site above, you will see it stained dark. Eventually I would like to do the same; the wheel looks fabulous dark.

Spinning isn't automatic or easy. At first it's a bit like rubbing you belly while you pat your head... there is a lot going on and hard to keep track of it all. I think I do well for a novice spinner, but I have a lot to learn still. Below is 2 ounces of 2-ply yarn that is Aran weight and made from wool roving. To make yarn, first you spin the yarn (clockwise) into a long, thin, "single ply" strand. Then, if you like, you take the two ends of the strand and spin ("ply" ...used as a verb here) them together (going counterclockwise). The end product is a 2 ply strand that is more like yarn you see in the store and generally more uniform than single ply yarn.

Hand spun yarn is more uniform and truer to weight the more experienced the spinner is, but it all has it nuances. Most knitters love the slight variations in hand spun yarn, many pay a premium for it. Spinning won't make you tons of money though, roving itself is costly and with labor on top of that. Most "expensive" hand spun yarns are modestly priced for the materials and the process. Those that do make money are usually starting with fiber produced on their own farms. But if you make it for yourself, chances are you really are doing it because you like spinning as much as knitting, and in the end you will save a little bit of money on the final yarns. (without counting the labor of spinning, fiber IS cheaper than yarn.) I do have visions of getting and Angora rabbit sometime in the future, though. Angoras have long fur that is a good fiber to spin and I have a background in raising and caring for rabbits. I definitely need to find a cute project for the yarn below... ideas welcome!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, March 19, 2012

And Spring gave Summer a miss...

So winter never really came and all of a sudden it seems we are in the middle of June here in Minnesota... very odd in deed. Usually sometime in March we get a "warm spell" of 30-40 degrees or so, just enough to give you hope. Then we are hit with more snow until late April.

But this year the snow never really came and, well, I was counting on a snowy March to finalize my garden plans. No such luck, so I find myself scrambling. We may get a frost yet... but it certainly won't be in May. So I finally find myself "behind" in starting plants that needed starting (tomatoes). Over the weekend I drafted up the page you see above for my square foot garden. It will have a trellis on one side for climbing plants. The idea behind square foot gardening is to plant very compactly, eliminating rows used in traditional gardens.  I ordered the seeds today...

...The order above is from seed saver's exchange in Iowa. There was also $6.00 shipping... so almost 30 bucks. Like most things, the garden is going to be the most costly this year (the first) because materials (and seeds) can hopefully be used next year.

My plan for the bed is to cut two 2"X12"x8' in half, giving a 4x4 bed. Each square you see above is 1 foot x 1 foot. I think plywood will work for the bottom, with some drainage holes. I am going to try raise it off the ground with cement blocks. Then comes the dirt, which I am not excited to see the price for... I expect that to be costly. Now I am not the most mechanical, but I am going to make it myself, or die trying ;).

So I started racking my brain with how much of everything to get, but I ended up deciding that I just wanted to take this as a learning experience, choose a few things I like, and go through the process this year. I can worry about what I want more of next year.

So the varieties I chose are as follows:

Carrots, St Valery See them here
Cucumber, Bushy OG
Pepper, Habenero Mustard (for Equah, will be in a separate pot)
Swiss Chard, 5 color silverbeet
Bean, Black Valentine
Turnip, Purple Top White
Bell Pepper, King of the North
Tomato, Cherry Roma
Tomato, Hillbilly Tomato Leaf

Really, these are chosen by nothing more than the online descriptions and whatever looked like fun to grow. I figured I could wrack my brain and spend hours studying something I knew nothing about, or I could give it a shot and learn as I go. I chose the latter. It's my first vegetable garden and I just want to have fun with it and get my hands dirty. I chose heirlooms, because I'm particularly attached to them. When given the chance I went for striking varieties that would be inspiring to grow. I will likely have stumbles along the way, but hopefully it will be somewhat successful. I also will have some potted herbs and hot peppers (I didn't want to try reaching over these to tend other plants). The seeds are ordered, and hopefully this weekend I will start some indoors and get the bed built. We will see, weekends get busy fast around here.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, March 5, 2012

Music on Monday: Trampled by Turtles

You would think I'd have been a long time fan... by all reasonable standards I should have been. I was living in Duluth around the time they first started getting noticed, and while living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, I repeatedly read about them in City Pages and saw their disks at Cheapo in the Local section.

...But the fact is that Trampled by Turtles... well, it just screams crappy punk rock band. I'm sorry, the name is a bit clever, but I couldn't get over that I thought I knew what they were about... and I'm not really a punk rocker. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of punk rock... but I really just can't be bothered to scrape through the local "scene" because, frankly, some punk rocker types bother me. Some are sweet as pie, and some make you feel like you're just got a snooty cheerleader as your lab partner.

And so I passed them by. BAD choice. They are an extremely excellent... bluegrass... band. Or folk, or whatever label you prefer. They are the type of band that could have gotten away with crappy song writing;  their instrumentation skill is enough to draw a crowd. The cherry on top is that they are indeed strong songwriters. And, oh boy, you must hear that fiddle player.

I missed my opportunity to see them in February, they were sold out by the time I got around to looking up tickets. But they hail from Duluth, as good Minnesota music should, and I'm sure I will find an excuse to visit them and take in the North Shore. I suggest you do the same.

Official website:

You tube:
 Wait So Long
Where Is my Mind? (Pixies Cover)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recipe: Root Veggie Soup

Wow, this is a really filling and comforting soup. I got it off a package of root vegetables (contents shown above), but I adapted it slightly to my liking. The original recipe didn't have much in the way for seasonings and the end product was meant to be blended to a puree. From past experience, I have not like these types of pureed soups, so I skipped that part and just added some thickener.

1 medium onion
1 tsp olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
3 lbs root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, celeric, sunchokes)
* Potato (I did not use, but will try next time)
6 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup cream
2 tsp corn starch mixed with some cold water
salt and pepper to taste

I will add here that maybe you want to add a potato as well. I think the flavor would certainly be great and it may bulk up the broth enough to omit the corn starch later. If you do use too much carrot, parsnip, or turnip the soup can bit sweet for my taste. The potato may help to counter that sweetness.

Prep all of you veggies-  scrape, clean, and cut.

Heat the olive oil- make sure to use under Medium heat so you don't scorch it. Yes, I did this, while talking to my sister on the phone. If you do scorch the oil (it will start smoking heavily and smell awful) get it off the burner and out of the house! Smoked oil is a carcinogen, you should not breath it in. But don't worry, if this happens, you will KNOW not to breath it by it's putrid stench.

OK, add the onions and cook until soft.

Now add your vegetables and cook for 10 minutes. They will not be thoroughly cooked. I also added my salt and pepper at this point, maybe a teaspoon or so of each. You can experiment with other seasonings, the recipe called for none at all, a bit odd. Generally speaking, a little seasoning goes a long way. You could try some thyme or rosemary as well.

Add stock and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes per the directions. Mine took longer. Take off the heat and allow to cool for a bit. Stir in the cream.

Now heat on the stove again and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Allow to simmer until nice and thick. Adjust seasonings as needed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Random Musing and Updates

So because I haven't written in so long, I feel there is so much catching up to do. I've been busy at work, that is true. But I also have been up to a lot of crafting and around the home projects. These generally give me a break and save my sanity when things are so hectic.

My uncle has this poster he made that still hangs in my childhood home "Everything I needed to know, I learned on the farm." Some day I will copy it here verbatim, but one thing that comes to mind during busy times like this is one part that says "there is only so much work that can be done in a day, then it's time to drive pickups." It makes me smile, because it is so true. No matter how many things you put on the To Do list for the day, it seems mentally, physically, and emotionally, we can only take some much. Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, the new top priority becomes that you just MUST go to town for parts, you really OUGHT to drive to the ridge to see the fields. It's human nature telling you "I'm done for the day; I need a break, I need something else."

And so I attacked the cupboard you see above. I am so busy at work, I've been on my computer every moment of my spare time it seems. I was in a documenting marathon when I went up to get a drink, and there it was... the messy cupboard that suddenly seemed to be priority #1. I tore everything out of it, got out my mason jars and some labels, and soon I had this...

All of the jars have labels of the contents on the lids, and for items I got in the bulk section at the co-op I included the bulk section number of that item. The nice thing about mason jars is that they come in a sectioned box that is useful for carrying several jars at once. I kept this so that when the jars are empty, I can just toss them in the box and bring everything together to the bulk section to refill. Since they have labels on top, I will know what to refill them with without having to make a list.

I tried to make bread, and failed :). But I had fun!

I tried my hand at spinning...

And succeeded! Above is a 1 oz skein of 2-ply wool yarn I made. Interested in learning to spin? Let me know, I am planning on going back to Serendipity in Zumbrota MN for more free spinning classes! I am begging Equah for a wheel!

I have been making MANY MANY pysanky, or Ukrainian Easter Eggs. I just left 5 at Serendipity to try to sell.

Speaking of which, a little egg comparison when I was blowing out the eggs before dying them. This isn't the best photo, but it contains 1 farm egg and 1grocery egg. Can you guess which is which? Of course! The farm egg has a healthy yellow-orange yolk and the grocery egg is pale and watery. Plus the farm egg was much smaller and had a much larger yolk.

I have a new favorite bottle. On the right is my new Life Factory bottle that I'm loving so much. On the left is my stainless steel bottle, but I can always seem to taste the metal when I drink from it. The Life Factory bottle is glass with a silicone sleeve to protect it. The sleeve also protects your hands from hot beverages. I am definitely ordering more of these. They have larger bottles that come with flip tops as well.

Other things that have struck my fancy lately include a maple-syruping course that will be held at a local state park, sooo want to go to that. Noodler refillable pens... still want one. Cloth napkins... why not? And a never-ending quest for a better lunch box- preferably one that will hold hot meals.

So here to more blogging in the future! Wish me luck.

Recipe: Cold Press Coffee

This is my new love: homemade frappuccino with cold press coffee.  It's really easy to make and saves both money and calories. I love hot coffee as much as the next person, but sometimes I just need something different. My coffee kept getting bitter when I tried to make it hot (suggestions anyone?), so I finally took the leap and tried this. And guess what? It's super easy and almost no-fail. In fact, there isn't much of a recipe for this at all.

1. Find a container for your coffee. You can use the pot you have, buy a french press, or do like I did and save a milk bottle. The glass milk bottle worked great, cost very little (only the $1.50 I would have gotten back on the bottle deposit), and holds 1/2 gallon. I avoided plastic because it tends to make drinks taste bad and well, it now appears it isn't very good for us. I try to avoid it for storing foods.

2. Grind you coffee of choice. Pour this into the container. Sorry I don't have more exact measurements, but I would say I used about 1 cup for 1/2 gallon container. Really, this isn't an exact science. Since the end product is diluted with water before you drink it, add less if it turns a bit weak, or more if it turns out very strong. Really, don't stress yourself over these things.

3. Cover with filtered water and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.

4. Strain and return to container. I just used coffee filters, but next time I would do the first pass through a wire sieve and then again through the coffee filters. Using the filters alone worked fine, but it just took a REALLY long time. Rinse the remaining grounds from the bottle before returning the finished coffee there. I ended up with no grounds in mine.

So the great thing is that per my own experience, this keeps a good long time in the fridge. It can be heated if you like coffee hot (even MORE convenient than instant coffee!).

For basic coffee:

- Dilute 1 part cold press concentrate with 1 part filtered water. Adjust this ratio to your preference.
- Heat if desired, or combine over a glass of ice for chilled coffee

Salted Coffee:

- 1 part cold press concentrate
- 1 part water
- 1 pinch salt
- Glass of ice

- Pour coffee and water over ice, add salt and stir. No kidding! What a great way to enjoy coffee without added sugar or artificial sugar!

- 1 part coffee
- 1 part milk
- 5 drops Stevia

- Combine over ice if desired, I just mix mine right in my to-go Life Factory bottle.

Remember to store cold press coffee in your fridge  :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dollars and Sense

Psychologists have this term... Cognitive Dissonance. It describes the experience of stress and discomfort when our actions depart from our values. We generally will try and change our actions, or at least justify our current ones, to rid ourselves of this feeling, or suffer under its consequences. I bring this up, because I, along with a growing number of people, experience this in one form or another whenever I am faced with simple, every day decisions. Especially shopping. The topic is big enough that I felt it would be good to address.

I generally try to focus my purchases in the following order:
1. Local and organic
2. local
3. organic
4. other

I should go into further details on why I value these things, but that may be left for another post. Still, whatever you values may be, if they deviate from products produced from large-production, centralized operations, you will generally find the goods you value, cost much, much more than the standard fare. It is easy to find podcasts and blogs telling you just why value extends beyond a price tag, but it's hard to extend that to actually coughing up 1, 2, 3 times the amount of money for a similar product. This can get even more complicated when your finances are shared with another person (e.g. my partner). I can't say what anyone else can or should do, that's far too judgmental in my eyes. Instead, I'm hoping to do this, and some following posts, about the struggles I face, the decisions I've made- good and bad- and what I'm doing to live by my values and stay sane.

So, lets not talk in general terms, lets talk about me in specific. I want to support local, decentralized processes. I generally try to by organic, because if nothing else, organic products SHOULD at least be non-GMO. I am actually not as convince about some of their other "virtues," except that maybe their productions methods are a bit more in balance with nature. I try to buy local, even before organic. My partner, on the other hand, has absolutely no interest in anything outside of saving money and buying a lot of stuff for a good price. This is not to blame her for everything, I find it very difficult to resist a $4 whole chicken at Hy-Vee, even thought the $12 local bird is tastier, less fatty, and generally meatier. I am not perfect, and in fact the driving force behind this post is that I have slipped in recent months and I, personally, need to unpack and re-evaluate these things. If I ever get to blogging consistently again, I think I will include this as a weekly topic. Here is what I have so far...

Ways to shop by my values:

1. Think of Continuous Quality Improvement, not perfection. Sometimes extremes are fun, they shake us out of our comfort zone, they challenge us, and they make us feeling like THIS week is oh-so-different from the last. On the other hand, they are unforgiving and sometimes unattainable. OK, so the nerd in me had to frame this in CQI terms, but it isn't a bad concept, and if applied to life it can be a joyous, motivating, yet forgiving nudge in a better direction. Think about improving a bit at a time, month by month, or even year by year.

2. Budget. Equah and I have a wonderful budgeting system. We are the gold standard for a couple working together on money matters and I'm very proud of us for it. It uncovered a lot of previously unseen money, and seemed to give us "more" money for everything. I will try include a separate post on how we budgeted and went on a cash diet. I know it doesn't directly relate to most of the blog's content, but I think we have a system worth sharing and it does impact how I am able to do some of these things, so I feel it would help the blog be more holistic.

3. Cut back in other areas. I overspend in some areas that truly affect my finances. I am wayyyyy too prone to buy items for work or splurge on impulse buys when there are things I want more.

4. The three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, when applied holistically, will work in favor of saving money, not spending it. Reduction of energy usage, purchasing used clothing, recycling items for new uses vs. purchasing more commodities, these are all ways I try save money.

5. Reduce eating out or eliminate all together. This, THIS, above all else, is what takes up stupid amounts of my money. Not only are dining out option not healthy- even low calorie items are usually devoid of nutrition- they are so expensive. Yet every morning I seem to convince myself I am in such rush that I am justified to just pick up breakfast AND lunch on the road. (I work out of my car).

6. Add extra income. I am working toward selling some art, crafts, and homespun items to produce a personal income in addition to my current job. My hope is to use it to contribute to our grocery budget and "make up the difference" for shopping local or at the co-op. Equah is not opposed to anything but the prices there, so I think she would be open to spending more money if the additional cost came out of my personal moneys and not the household budget.

7. Shop in bulk. The bulk section at the co-op is much cheaper that all the other sections. In addition, shopping in bulk reduces waste and garbage.

The post is getting long, but I feel this will be a topic for continued discussion. Writing this post has reminded my of how fun and beneficial blogging is for me. It really helps me to better weight options and analyze things that I don't necessarily get the chance to do on a day to day basis. I've been overworked and overstressed lately, and like most healthy, positive things in my life, the blog was an easy thing to nix from my routine. I can't make too many promises, but I think it would be worth my effort to pick up the slack a bit and write more often. It keeps me focused on the positive things in life... and there is no price tag too big for that.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fiber CSA

So i'm taking a quick mental break from documenting... yes, I'm pretty busy this time of year... and I discovered something I just had to write a new blog post about.

Half of the time I blog as a way to store information for myself. I use my blog for recipes, links, and as a general reminder about things I've read or heard about. This is one of those posts, but hopefully it will be of interest to others as well.

I was reading a magazine and it had an article about starting your own fiber CSA. For those who don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Most of the time, you purchase a share in a CSA in return for a monthly box of seasonal produce. CSAs have expanded to include meat, cheese, dairy, flowers, herbs, fruits, honey... But a fiber share? What a dream for any knitter! Now of course I am not literally interested on purchasing a herd of sheep and starting one myself, but it did inspire me to google "Minnesota fiber share"... and I found one here on I gave the contact person a call. They are a small operation but are expanding. She refered me to their website and said I should also send her an email and she will let me know when she has updated prices and availablility for new members. There is also a general local harvest page for the farm Here.

Over the phone she gave me some estimates. They offer two basic types of shares, one for completed yarn and the other for raw or washed fibers and roving (for spinners). She stated that a 1/2 share of yarm would be about 6 oz of yarn every other month and that a spinning/fiber share would be about 1 lbs of fiber every other month.

So I'm very excited about this, especially since I tentatively have been OKed to purchase a spinning wheel by Equah if I can find one that is economical (under 200 bucks, these things aren't cheap!). I will have to compare prices as it is much easier to find local roving than local yarn. Also, these have rabit, goat, and sheep fibers so it would be a good way to learn to spin different fibers.

Here's to new adventures.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

General Update

So you may have noticed a dire lack of new posts here. Things have been very hectic, though I've been doing some interesting projects as well. Right now I'm swamped with work and documents, so for the near future I'm taking a hiatus from blogging. Don't let that fool you into thinking I'm not busy, though! My newest adventure is that I took a spinning class and made my first yarn, pretty neat! But I will have to wait and put a full post on that in the future. I'm been doing a lot of cooking and have been dying Pysanki, "Ukrainian Easter Eggs" to sell (hopefully). Let me get through this rough patch and then I plan to tell you more about my recent cooking, crafting, and learning adventures.

It is odd, me being so busy, because lately I've been crafting a LOT more. Knitting a pair of socks is one of my recent projects that has been helping keep me sane, centered, and focused. I haven't made soap lately, mainly because I really don't need any... I'm pretty much stocked up for the year. I'm toying around with the idea of trying to sell some products at the Farmers Market this summer, but haven't looked too seriously into that yet. We will see. So until I get a bit more time to devote to my blog, I'll just say "see ya later" for right now :).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cheese making: Mozzarella

So this was my first attempt at making cheese, it was really easy and turned out successfully. To make mozzarella you need milk, citric acid, and renet (I used a vegetable renet so that vegetarian friends might one day enjoy my creations.) Begin by heating 1 gallon of milk on the stove, I used whole.

Add 1 tsp citric acid to 1/4 cup of water.

Add renet to another 1/4 cup of water. I just followed the directions for the renet I had to determine the amount. The recipe I was following recommended 1 crushed tablet of regular renet.

Make sure the milk is at least 50 degrees before pouring the water and citric acid mixture in. Stir for 1 minute. The added an additional tsp of citric acid, stir another minute.

Slowly heat on low to 80-90.

I have no idea what I'm doing here...

Add the renet.

Cover and let sit undesturbed for 15/30 minutes.

When it is ready You will get a "clean break." Poke a finger in and make a line. In a few seconds the sides will separate.

Slice the curds in squares. You won't see much at first, but leave them to sit a bit and they will separate.

Apply low heat until it reaches 108 degrees. Let it sit off the heat for another 20 minutes, stir occasionally. The curds will continue to shrink.

Spoon curds into a colander lined with cheese cloth.

Let whey separate from curds.

Microwave for 30-45 seconds, then gently separate whey using your hands or slotted spoon. Microwave another 15 seconds and repeat. Microwave 20 seconds, then salt the cheese (who knew it was so sweet at first?) and knead like it were bread.

When it turns shiny, you are done kneading. Now cut it in half. You can eat it immediately or throw it in the fridge. Eat is soon though, because it will go bad in couple weeks. The cheese you see below made it onto a yummy homemade pizza and was perfectly gooey and delicious.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Simple Soaps

This is a soap I got at the winter farmers market a few weeks ago. The brand is Simple Soaps and they are from a local lady who uses her own goats' milk in the soaps. I know goats milk soap is pretty popular, so I was curious to try some. They have a variety of scents to choose from, both based on essential oils and others using synthetic fragrances. The essential oil fragrances are very well constructed and very nice, not something all EO enthusiasts are able to pull off. Some people like synthetic fragrances, others avoid them, but you have to admit, they often smell a lot better. I think it just takes a keener scent sense to make an appealing EO blend.

At first I used this just as a hand soap, but lately I've been using it in the shower since I've been running low on my own soaps. It smells very nice, mine is a blend of peppermint, basil, and ??? I would say it is a bit too drying for me to continue to use on my skin, probably only because I'm so sensitive to fragrances. So I think I will return it next to the sink... It will last longer there anyway.

I visited the website for Simple Soaps today and it looks like they just opened a shop in Dover MN. I think that might be worth a visit once the roads shape up. For now, you can order them online, they even do custom batches of 15 bars or more... How nice would that be for wedding or birthday gifts? Check them out

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 16, 2012

Music on Monday: Charlie Parr

I can't remember where I first saw him, but I know how I first discovered his music. I used to have a habit of wandering down to Cheapo records at 1 or 2 in the morning when I was restless, bored, and usually a little lonely living in Minneapolis/St. Paul. At the time they were open 24 hours and I was a night owl with a love for music. With no where else to go, I would go to Cheapo. They had listening stations throughout the store and I would spend the night scanning records and listening to anything and everything that peaked my interest. On of my favorite places was the local section, and that is where I scanned and considered disks from Tapes and Tapes, Jasper Loes, Luke Zimmerman, Vicious Vicious, and Charlie Parr.

Parr was one for the win. I bought his second album and soon was tracking him down for shows. Not hard to do as even then he held a regular list of shows. One of my favorites was seeing him at Beaners in Duluth, MN. I traveled up with my roommates, one of whom was in a band at that time called the Godevils. They were playing at Beaners as well that night as well and it was a small, relaxed venue... a real treat. At the time, he still was working to cleverly conceal his youth... and didn't look much older than myself.  I've also seen him at open-air shows at various Twin Cities gatherings and block parties. While he has a solid following, the best part of these show is watching passer-bys stop in their tracks until you can barely see Charlie among the swarm. No matter who walks by, he instantly communicates the talent, depth, and legitimacy of folk music.

I encourage everyone to to follow some of the links I've provided and give this talented man a listen. A quick Youtube search also will lead you to many live performances.

Official website with discography, shows and more:

You tube videos: 1922JubileeJesse James

Albums on iTunes: Music on iTunes

So there it is, give him a listen, you won't regret it. Hell, take a show in with me sometime.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Maple Roasted Roots and Blog Inspiration

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Location:12th Ave NE,Rochester,United States

So I'm trying to figure out a more consistent format for my blog. After doing some thinking this weekend, I think I would get more use out of the blog and it may be more enjoyable to read for others if it were semi-structured. I also feel my blog has too much of some things (How Tos) and not enough of others (local goods). So I did some brain storming, and this is what I came up with:

Sunday: Recipes
Monday's: local music
Tuesday: "soap box" thoughts on topics important to me
Wednesday: local product or store reviews
Thursday: local art (maybe to be combined with music on Mondays?)
Friday: local entertainment/ things to do
Saturday: tutorials and "How To" projects

I will freely admit that above list is kind of a wish list and a bit ambitious.... Being as it is pretty hard for me to get any sort of regular post up each week at the moment. But we will see. I will still include general updates on what I have been up to, but you may have to wait for the details (such as my cheese making post, which you are likely to see on Saturday :)).

So in honor of my new attempt at organization, here is a recipe for this Sunday:

Maple Roasted Root Vegtables

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp maple syrup (I use pure maple syrup, not sure how the fake stuff would turn out)
1 Tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
1 Tbsp ground or minced ginger root
3 lbs root vegetables of your choice (carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, celeriac, sun chokes, etc)
1 sweet potato

Combine the oil, syrup, and soy sauce in a large bowl. Skin and cut vegetables into chunks. Toss in the mixture and distribute onto a baking sheet. Roast at 450 for 40 minutes or until tender. I like ginger so I added extra to mine.

These are absolutely delicious and hard to walk pass without snitching a bit.... Isn't that a refreshing way to think of veggies?

Well, wish me luck as I put forth my best effort at daily blogs. Tomorrow I am going to highlight a favorite musician of mine, Charlie Parr.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Update, Cheese Making Begins!

Well, as I write this, my curds and whey are separating on the stove. I will be sure to have a separate post up on this in the future, but I'll give a brief synopses here. I am participating the cheese making challenge on the blog Another Year Without Groceries. For the January challenge I chose to try make ricotta, but in researching how to do this I discovered that ricotta is usually made from leftover whey, often after making mozzarella. Never one to miss a "two for the price of one" project, I found some resources online for making mozzarella. So while I have been doing some documents for work and writing on this blog, I've been doing my best to photograph my first cheese making attempt.

I got some time to sit down and knit with my good friends Jesse and Amber today. I haven't knitted in a long time, so it was nice. I mentioned one adventure I'd like to take in: Hobgoblin Music, near Redwing, MN. I happened to drive past it a few times this fall. It's a large barn where, evidentially, they hold folk shows and sell instruments. It sounds fun, but I haven't the nerve to go alone. I suggested it for maybe s summer time adventure. Both wanted to see House of Hidden Treasures, which Amber went with me two a few months ago. Jesse also mentioned the Minnesota opera, and sitting in North East Minneapolis at Diamond Coffee house, I'm reminded just how broad and varied "local" can be in Minnesota. The blog is sort of developing itself organically, truthfully I haven't found its complete focus just yet, so we will see what future posts bring. I love local MN music and am a great fan of the arts, so I would love to include more regarding them in the future.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

General update and new recipes

I have quite a few blog post backed up and in need of editing, but for now I think I will just add a general update. As you can probably tell, I've been doing a lot of cooking lately... I'm tryin my best to get recipes up for those that read this thing too. I jsut made a great roasted root veggie dish today that I hope everyone tries, it was very, very good. (You know when Equah starts stalking the bowl and snitching pieces like they were candy that I've done something right!)

I also read a blog called Another Year Without Groceries which has a great cheese making challenge I am really interested in trying. Starting this month, several bloggers are trying their hand at making different cheeses... They start easy and increase in difficulty as new challenges are posted. I think I should at least try the first one... It sounds like such a good way to learn a new skill. Even if I just do a few, it should be fun. So expect more posts regarding that. You can read about the challenge here. I've been so busy lately that I will have to scrounge up the time somewhere to try this!

One project I got done recently was my rag bins. I don't know how people got away from this, but it was common practice as I was growing up to rip up worn-out clothing and pile them somewhere. They were the paper towels of old... you wipe up a mess with them, pile the dirty ones together and every so often wash a load of rags to reuse. In a pinch, you could throw them away as well. I don't have any dreams of giving up paper towels, but I guess a rag bin just makes sense to me.  They are less wastefull than paper towels, more hygenic than kitchen towels, and cheaper than both.

My compost bin froze shut. Yep, boo to that. I tried right? And I was doing pretty good, it smelt like dirt in there, not rotten food. I guess I will have to wait until next spring; and no chance of free fertilizer for the garden. Next time it is warm out I will try unfreeze it. Besides being a hippy right of passage, it allowed use to go down to a small trash bing and save some money. I guess composting apeals to me because the way I see it, we are supposed to litter the ground with food waste. That's how nature is meant to work. Now to avoid being unsightly and to also reap rich imputs for gardening, composting is better than just throwing food out the back window :).

Soap updates! The deer soap is done, and it makes for decent hand soap, but not so much for face and body. There is a slight smell of the fat still... perhaps not enough lye? I am on my last bar of castile soap, but I don't think that's too bad since the small batch I made in September has lasted me until now. I really need some more, since this is the stuff responsible for saving my skin. I may try out a hot-process method (because then you don't need to let to soap age) to make some more, if only I found the time. In the mean time I can try use the deer soap. My intention was never to use this as face and body ("toilet") soap though... since it is full of saturated fats it is perfect for laundry soap, but not ideal for skin. About 2 more weeks and my "super fat" shea soap will be ready! I am excited to use this, I may even end up prefering it to my castile soap if it comes out as intended. My shampoo soap is still going strong. I've only used 1 out of 4 bars (they were pretty large) since September. Well, actually, I'm not even done with the first bar. I really like it, but I do need to follow with conditioner still. I'm actually thinking my shea soap may be a good shampoo/conditioner bar. I will at least give it a try.

I didn't get too much done this weekend; Equah and I went to Welch Villiage and went skiing- had a blast! We're doing our best to build a healthier lifestyle, it was great to get out and do something that is both fun and positive. Felt good to get soem fresh air and I slept like a babe last night!

Recipe: Mushroom and Pecan Venison

The recipes have been quite popular, so here's another! Just made this last week and both Equah and I like it a lot.

Ingredients: 1 tbs olive oil 2 lbs venison tenderloin (approximately) 8 oz mushrooms, sliced 1 medium onion, chopped 1-2 cloves garlic, minced 2 cups chicken broth 1/2 cup cream 2 Tbsp arrow root powder (or corn starch) 1/3 cup pecans

In case you haven't seen venison before, this is what it looks like, very lean. Cut it into chunks or medallions. Heat oil on medium heat. Season meat with salt and pepper.

Sear meat, or until rare. Note meat will stick to the pan at first, it will "release" easily when it is done searing... No need to pry it from the bottom or worry about sticking if you use a bit of oil.

Move meat to plate, add mushrooms and onion and cook fir 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

Add chicken broth, simmer until reduced by half.

While that is simmering add arrow root powder to a few tablespoons if the cream and whisk together.

Add the plain cream first, simmer 5 minutes. The whisk in the arrow powder and cream mixuture, cook 2-4 minutes.

Let it thicken...

Add the meat and pecans. Simmer until meat is cooked through and sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve over pasta or rice. This dish has a rustic quality that I really like, but not everyone may appreciate. I was surprised that Equah enjoyed it as well. This could be made with beef if you don't like the "gamey" taste of venison.