Monday, February 29, 2016

the great parmesan controversy

Lately there have been a lot of news stories about cellulose in parmesan cheese.  Apparently it's harmless and is included in many other foods...the problem seems to be that companies are claiming their product is 100% parmesan cheese, when actually they contain up to 8% cellulose (which is extracted from plant material...sometimes wood).

After all that hoopla, I thought it might be a good time to make a switch to grating fresh parmesan from an actual wedge of the cheese.

I baked a pan of lasagna so we could try out  the fresh parmesan, and a couple of other cheeses, asiago and myzithra, for a taste test and comparison.

That gave me a chance to use my hand crank cheese grater!   I put it on the table with a chunk of each of the three cheeses so everyone could try them on their lasagna.

They were all good, but since there is already a lot of cheese in lasagna, it's probably not the best way to try them out. 
For now, I think I still like the parmesan in the green shaker cannister better. Maybe because that's what I'm used to.

Along with the lasagna for Sunday dinner, we had toasted garlic bread, fresh buttered broccoli, and creamed corn.

One family member does not like noodles, so that small loaf pan of lasagna is baked with rice instead.

Later, for dessert, we had "Next Best Thing to Robert Redford".

It was lovely and sunny in the afternoon but way too windy to sit outside and enjoy it.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

finished a quilt

I have finally finished up this quilt that I've been showing you for a year.  It's all quilted, and the binding is on.

It's roughly 66" by 86".   

Made as a block of the month project that my friend Joan hosted for our quilt group members.

Here is Joan's finished quilt. Same pattern but done in this gorgeous red, black and white combination.

Another member of the group has finished her quilt too, but I forgot to get a photo. She had used pretty spring colored fabrics and made her quilt as a gift for a preteen girl.

My quilt wasn't made for anyone in particular, so now I'm not sure what I will do with it. 

I started off with that black floral fabric (which I've had for ages), and picked the block colors to coordinate with that.

But then what happened is, I ran a little short on the black floral fabric.  Hence, the borders on top and bottom are skinnier than those on each side.  But I don't mind.

I've had lot's of compliments on the backing I pieced together.  It was a good place to use that large scale print fabric that was too pretty to cut up. 

You can see the texture of the quilting here on the back too.  All free motion quilted on my domestic Brother sewing machine.

Maybe I will just keep this quilt for myself!

Friday, February 26, 2016

pit barbecue

I have mentioned here before, that my husband really loves pit barbecue.

He is particular about it. It has to be pork...pulled pork. It has to be smoked. It has to have "outside brown" mixed in with it (this is just what it sounds like - the brown crispy layer from the outside of the smoked pork butt).

He doesn't want the sauce to be mixed in with the meat...he wants to add it himself, and the sauce must be hot enough to make sweat pop out on your forehead!

This is his favorite barbecue place in the Louisville area - Shack in the Back
The chimneys and exhaust fans, and the hunger inducing aromas when you pull into the parking lot, are all good signs that you are in for a good barbecue experience.

Inside, you order at the counter. There are only about six tables, but there is a big outdoor dining area enclosed with plastic sides for use when the weather is mild.

Our meals are here!  You see Lonnie has added some coleslaw to his sandwich and is pouring on the hot barbecue sauce.

I had the shredded beef brisket. It was good too. They have a choice of 4 or 5 sauces on the table. I used the "tangy" one.

A good place to eat...but I wish they would be more environmentally considerate.
Everything was plastic or styrofoam...the plates, the cups, containers with lids, ketchup packets. Even the utensils were the kind that comes in a cellophane wrap with a napkin and salt and pepper packets.

I guess that keeps things simple and easy for them. I just wish there were some alternatives.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

tree trimming

Every summer when I'm on the lawn mower, I tell myself that when the weather turns cooler in the fall, I will get busy trimming some low hanging branches off of the trees in the back field.

This has been going on for quite a few years. I think I was putting it off because I really didn't have a tool to do it easily.
The choices would have been to stand on the ground and cut with a pole pruner (the kind you manually saw back and forth with) or to drag a ladder back there and climb up and cut with my  reciprocating saw.

Then last fall, I bought a battery powered pole saw.  I only used it a little bit before the weather got bad, so I have been waiting for a nice day like we had earlier this week, to do some trimming.

I decided to start in a back corner, with this pine tree that had several dead and hanging branches that would scratch and stab me when I got close with the lawn mower.

The saw part of my trimmer is actually like a mini chain saw. It reaches up pretty high and will cut up to 6" diameter branches.   Sort of heavy, but you can let it rest on the branch you're cutting. Just be sure to be ready to steady it once it cuts through!

Now, all clear under here - after I drag the branches into the woods to make brush piles for the bunnies to hide in.
That's the saw laying there in front.  

That was enough cutting and clearing for one day. My muscles have hardly been used all winter so I have to break them in gently!

Walking around the yard looking things over, I noticed my witch hazel tree is blooming. The blooms are a sort of pretty pinkish fringe.

It has a few broken branches - I guess from deer chomping on it. Not enough damage to hurt it though. 

I am so glad I had a chance to spend an afternoon outside. The weather has been cool and wet since then.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

cast iron whatzit?

My older son, Chopper, picked up this unusual cast iron piece  and gave it to the Sasquatch to add to his collection, as a thank you for helping him haul some things.

Do you know what this is?

It's obviously a pig's head.   Weee weeee weeeeee!

Ready for the answer?    It's a souse mold!   

Here is the underside. It's like a jello mold, but intended to be used for souse...or head cheese, which is made by cooking hogs ears and tongue (sometimes the entire head) and adding gelatin and spices.

I am sure this won't be used to hold souse anytime soon, but it's a nice collector's item.
We couldn't find out much about it on the internet.  One site thought these were made in the 1960's, but another guessed it might be older...from around 1900, when souse making was more common.

It could probably be used for baking a cake or as a jello mold. Much nicer just as a decoration though.

Monday, February 22, 2016

roasted cauliflower

This is more of a cooking method that an actual recipe.

It's a good way to prepare cauliflower though. Roasting, until the edges brown a little, brings out the sweetness in entirely different taste than you get with steaming or boiling.

All you need is fresh cauliflower, olive oil, salt and pepper.   Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the cauliflower in to roughly half inch slices.  Some of the little flower heads will break off - that's okay.

Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with a generous drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper. 
I like to use a coarse or flake salt for this.  Freshly ground pepper would be better too...but I don't have a grinder.

Spread the cauliflower on a pan with low sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 - 50 minutes...stirring every 15 minutes or so.
You should see some browned edges like this and the cauliflower will be tender.

It shrinks up quite a bit. There's a lot of water in cauliflower!

We had roasted cauliflower for Sunday dinner, along with grilled marinated strip steaks, crash hot potatoes, southwest salad, garlic bread, and buttered mini carrots with honey.

I asked my husband to throw a few chicken breasts on the grill while he was cooking the we would have something to reheat later this week with our leftover veggies.
Actually the chicken was better than the strip steaks...which turned out to have quite a bit of fat and gristle in them. Disappointing.

We had cookies for dessert...again from the after-Christmas marked down mixes that the Sasquatch brought over.   One batch of peanut butter and one batch of white chocolate cranberry.  
Pretty good and quick to make!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

back to school

My husband signed us both up for a continuing education class called "Wisdom Based Retirement".
It's held one afternoon each week at a Bellarmine University site.

We've been to the first class and it's pretty interesting so far. It's a class about investing and handling your finances after retirement.

 The instructor is good at explaining things and also has a lot of funny comments. He encourages everyone to ask questions during the class.

One of the very best things about going to these classes is that it's about dinner time when class is over.  We would be starved if we had to drive home and wait until I could get supper cooked.
So it looks like we might have to eat out on those days (wink, wink).

This time is was Skyline Chili.  I ordered a 5-way, with their new habernero cheese...and added plenty of hot sauce. I think steam was coming out of my ears as I was finishing up!

I noticed on the Bellarmine schedule that they offer other classes that might be fun and interesting to take in the future...landscaping, digital photography, non fiction writing, and so forth.   
I will definitely keep it in mind to check their continuing education class schedule next fall.

Friday, February 19, 2016

a frosty morn

Everything was coated with a heavy frost yesterday morning. As the sun rose, it lit up the landscape and everything was glowing white.

Wild grasses in the field...

Blackberry briers....

The dried leaves on the butterfly bush looked like they were sugar coated.
 The birdbath like a miniature ice skating rink.

 I'm seeing the white skeletons of the plants that will be budding out with green leaves in a few weeks.

The contorted filbert develops these catkins  in late winter.... 

They will drop off when leaves start to appear.

Here is a welcome bit of green...under the filbert tree, so somewhat protected...brave daffodils are emerging to check the weather.

The daylight hours are getting noticeably longer!  
A friend told me she had started some flower seeds indoors!
Our weekend forecast is for temperatures over 60 degrees!

Surely these are signs that spring is just around the corner!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

what I've been reading

This was a library discard book that I had taken along to read on vacation.

"A Bitter Brew" by Christine Ellen Young.

It's a true crime story about an arsenic poisoning at a church in Maine in 2003.

I read the first few pages before deciding to take it on the trip. It started off really interesting...I had to force myself to stop reading and save it for vacation.

The beginning of the book describes how one member of a small town Lutheran church had the responsibility of brewing up a big urn of coffee each Sunday before church, for a fellowship gathering after the service.
On this particular Sunday he noticed the lid askew on the urn, later, after returning from the service...but he didn't think too much about it.

Several of the church members noticed the coffee had a horrible taste, but some drank it anyway, others just had a few sips before dumping it.

Then, over the afternoon, one by one, the coffee drinkers became terribly ill.  All were hospitalized, and it didn't take long for the diagnosis...arsenic poisoning.  One person died and others suffered long term effects from the poison.

At this point the author of the book seemed to have no idea how to continue the story. Instead of telling us how detectives investigated the crime and what sort of leads or suspicions they had...she writes about different church members and their gossip and petty snippets of information here and there that never seems to tie anything together.

In fact, she never actually reveals who poisoned the coffee. It's assumed that a church member who supposedly committed suicide five days after the poisoning, was the killer.

I believe this book was written before the investigation was complete - that's why it leaves the murder unsolved.
For this reason, it's not a book I would recommend. 

I left my copy on the ship.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

what I've been sewing

My Homemakers quilt group, Crazy Quilters, is starting a new "block of the month" project for those who want to participate.

This time, each block actually represents a month. For instance, this first block for January is a snowflake (okay...use your imagination).
Mine will look better once I get it pressed.

I am still working on my 2015 block of the month quilt. I have it pin basted and ready for quiltilng.

I want to finish it up before our meeting next week so I can take it in for show and tell.

Next on the list is to make a couple of walker bags for a donation project that my other group is doing, then I will be quilting another small quilt for a friend who wants to donate it for a charity too.

And there is more after that! I like to have a lot of stuff waiting for me to do though, it keeps me moving forward with projects so I can scratch them off the list.

Monday, February 15, 2016

lazy Sunday

These Sadler's beef briskets from Sam's are always good. I buy them a couple of times a year to have for Sunday dinner.
It's easy to prepare...already cooked  and sliced, so basically just needs to be heated through.
Everyone in my family likes it.
You can serve about anything with it...salads and baked beans in the summer, or heartier hot side dishes and veggies in the winter.

It would be a good no-stress main dish to serve when guests are coming ,too.

Our Sunday dinner was Sadler's brisket, pinto beans with ham, mini corn muffins, green beans with red potatoes, and jalapeno cheese grits.

Dessert was chocolate cake with peppermint icing (from a mix), and vanilla ice cream.
(you have to have some chocolate on Valentines Day!)

 We spent the afternoon talking in the front room and watching lovely, fluffy snowflakes falling...thinking it was just blowing and drifting around...not realizing the roads were getting treacherous!

When Chopper and the Sasquatch left, they found the road was blocked with an accident, not far from my house. They had to take an alternate route.
The roads were slick and it was slow going. It took each of them over an hour to get to their houses (would usually be less than half an hour).

Both made it home okay, thank goodness!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

welcome home to us

I understand the weather around here was pretty mild last week while we were gone.
We were welcomed home by a couple of days with light snowfall.

 Pretty to look at and not enough to cause any trouble.

There were a couple of smallish deer very close up in the back yard. They decided the sedum that I have growing around the pool area is quite delicious!

You can see in the photo below...the turkeys were near by. It seems like the deer and turkeys depend on each other to be alert for danger.

We had a ton of mail to sort through when we got home...which included a cable/internet/phone bill with a huge rate increase.
They raised the price of our modem lease to $10 a I decided to go ahead and buy a modem (they don't mind) but when I went to hook it up I found the new modem has no place to hook in the phone line.
After a couple of calls to the cable company I learned that I would have to keep their modem too...but there would be no charge for it when only using it for the phone.
Also, I learned that I would now need a "splitter" and two short co-ax cables.  Thanks to my hoarding tendencies, I had all of those things in the closet!

So here is the new modem and instruction sheet...hmm, just connect 3 cords...

Oh dear! My set-up looks a bit more complicated that that!

I did manage to wrangle those cords into somewhat neater bundles...and everything worked.

And I had another nice surprise waiting for me. The Sasquatch had sharpened all my kitchen knives while he was house-sitting... 

I didn't realize how dull they were before. Now they are really sharp!