31 December 2009

Late to Work - An Excuse

I had a professor in grad school that said - "there is no such thing as a good excuse". He didn't want to hear about our computers crashing, which is the modern version of 'the dog ate my homework'.

At first I thought it was harsh, but I came around.

But this morning, when I just had to keep stopping to take pictures of the fog,

it was so tempting to just say,

"Whoa, that fog was thick this morning! I could barely see past my steering wheel! I had to go 2 miles per hour. It took me forevvverrrrr to get here!"

29 December 2009


First I want to apologize that I don't have pictures, I didn't realize at the time that I would need them.

OK, I'll back up a bit. My mom loves dark leafy greens, for example: spinach, beet greens, and kale. She cooked them all the time when I was growing up. Mom's a purist, so she just boiled them in plain water (not even salt). I hated the whole bunch - even spinach. I got over the spinach thing years ago, but I still feared kale.
Then I read this article in the October issue of Bon Appetite, by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. As I've gotten older I've tried to acquire a taste for those things I didn't like as a kid. So I decided that kale was a perfect candidate for my palate broadening attempts. But I really hate to waste food, so I kept putting off buying kale in case I still hated it.
Then my mom came to visit for Christmas. We went shopping at the local producer's market. The proprietor pointed out some fresh kale. I suggested to my mom that we get it. She reminded me that I don't like kale - not that I had actually forgotten. I prevailed and we came home with a bunch of kale.
We prepared it according to the way that Molly described in the article. (Not the accompanying pasta recipe). And it wasn't just good, it was actually delicious. I regretted giving my mom the bigger serving. I've been thinking about it today, two days after the fact. I'm wishing the market wasn't closed till after New Year's so that I can get more.
I'm a convert- what has happened to me?
So here is the basic recipe. (I didn't actually measure anything)

Kale for kale haters
-a bunch of kale (washed, dried, trimmed and cut)
-a drizzle of olive oil
-a tablespoon or so of butter
-a sprinklnig of sea salt
-a generous grating of pepper
-a big squeeze of lemon, about a tablespoon (mine was a meyer lemon)
Heat butter and oil in pan (I used a 10 inch cast iron skillet) over medium high heat.
Add kale and listen to it pop and crackle. Toss a few times.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook for just a few minutes, I'm guessing 3 minutes tops. Just till the kale is tender and the color brightens a bit.
Remove from heat. Squeeze lemon over, and toss to mix;. Serve hot.

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Luke 2:1-20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

18 December 2009

More deer

I do realize that in many suburbs, deer are now as common, and almost as domesticated as dogs.

But I still get tingles when I look into the eyes of a wild animal.

It is always so fleeting.

16 December 2009

Regal Raptor

This time of year, it seems like there are hawks on every tenth fence post.

I think this is a red-shouldered hawk.

12 December 2009

Polyface Farm

I went to Polyface farm while I was in Virginia. You may have heard of Joel Salatin in one of Michael Pollan's books, or the movie Food, Inc. He is a prolific writer, so I won't even try to paraphrase his ideas. There are many other sources of information (like his books) about his methods, I just want to show you my pictures.
Look it's a raken house (for rabbits and chickens).

And who is that in the back of the house?

These pigs reinforce my suspicion that I would really struggle with raising meat animals. OK, raising them would not be the hard part, it's the slaughtering I worry about.

I'm embarrased to say it, but aren't these guys cute? And I understand they are smart too. . . Hmm, I guess I will stay a vegetarian a bit longer. But bacon sure smells good and these pigs look pretty happy. The dilemma of us omnivores. .  .

I spy Salad Bar Beef. These cattle get a fresh salad bar of greens as they are moved to new areas of pasture each day.

You can see here the line between the pasture they have grazed and the pasture they will graze the next day.

One effect of being moved so often is they get more accustomed to interaction with humans than most cattle.

These are chicken houses on the left and mobile chicken houses on the right. The chickens follow the cattle around the pasture in the mobile roosts to help process the waste left by the cattle. Even if you don't have any intention of raising livestock, Mr. Salatin's books are very interesting and will certainly explain all this better than I can.
Note to all the Texans- You do not have a monopoly on big blue skys, as evidenced above.

These chickens are out enjoying some early December sunshine.

Not to ruin the image, but this is where the chickens get slaughtered. This really is interesting for many reasons, but you should read the book, or at least watch the movie.
Don't worry, I'll leave you on a scenic note.

Mr Salatin and Family,
Thanks for letting a group of strangers wander all around your farm, peek in your barns, take pictures and ask questions.
-Veggie Virginia

10 December 2009

A change of pace- Corn Pudding

Those of you that know me probably figured that food would show up on this blog eventually.
I wanted to share one of my favorite holiday/comfort foods. It's also one of the easiest possible things to make. It only has 5 ingredients, of which I can almost guarantee that you will have 4 in your cabinet right now. Just pick up some canned cream corn and you are ready to go.

I grew up calling it Corn Pudding. The Texan has renamed it Corn Souffle, but don't let that intimidate you, it isn't finicky like a souffle. It also isn't as fluffy, it's more creamy.

Corn Pudding AKA Baked Corn AKA Corn Souffle
Serves 4

Whatever you call it, it's comfort food. This recipe is a must for me at Thanksgiving. But don't save it just for Thanksgiving. It's also incredibly quick, simple and easy to double or triple. It is great as a side dish any time of year.

1 can cream style corn
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons milk

-Preheat oven to 375
-Butter baking dish (see note below)
-Stir corn, eggs, and sugar together
-Measure milk and add flour to the milk, stir well
-Add milk mixture to corn mixture, stir
-Pour into dish
-Bake 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out fairly clean. It's pretty moist, so the knife won't be spotless, but you don't want it be wet.

When making a batch this size, I have used a loaf pan and a pie pan. Obviously the loaf pan makes a deeper finished product, it also takes a bit longer to cook. I recommend a pie pan or a small casserole dish. It's a very tolerant dish, you really can't mess it up.
Just don't leave the sugar out. I did that intentionally when I made it most recently. I thought I remembered my Mom saying that she didn't put the sugar in. I thought I would be healthy and leave it out. But it is less then 1/2 teaspoon per serving and it really brings out the sweetness of the corn.

Cold Moon

Each full moon of the year has a name.

This is the cold moon. I bet you can guess why.

08 December 2009

Red Barns

I went to Virginia for Thanksgiving.

I really have a thing for red barns,

and silos.

05 December 2009


We didn't actually get the snow that other areas of Texas did. I think I counted 5 flakes drifting past my window at work yesterday. But it did get really cold, by Texas standards.

Yes, that says 24 degrees. So we also got a beautiful frost.