Author Archives: Mrs RB3

All This Rain…

4 1/2 inches of rain overnight, power out for about 5 hours, roads closed due to flooding and yet more watches and warnings reminded me of this story.

Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to go fishing. He called the royal weather forecaster and inquired as to the weather forecast for the next few hours. The weatherman assured him that there was no chance of rain in the coming days. So the king went fishing with his wife, the queen. On the way he met a farmer on his donkey. Upon seeing the king the farmer said, “Your Majesty, you should return to the palace at once because in just a short time I expect a huge amount of rain to fall in this area”. The king was polite and considerate, he replied: “I hold the palace meteorologist in high regard. He is an extensively educated and experienced professional. And besides, I pay him very high wages. He gave me a very different forecast. I trust him and I will continue on my way.” So he continued on his way.

However, a short time later a torrential rain fell from the sky. The King and Queen were totally soaked and their entourage chuckled upon seeing them in such a shameful condition. Furious, the king returned to the palace and gave the order to fire the professional. Then he summoned the farmer and offered him the prestigious and high paying role of royal forecaster. The farmer said, “Your Majesty, I do not know anything about forecasting. I obtain my information from my donkey. If I see my donkey’s ears drooping, it means with certainty that it will rain.” So the king hired the donkey. And thus began the practice of hiring dumb asses to work in the government and occupy its highest and most influential positions.

And the practice is unbroken to this date…

Memories

Cleaning up some files on my computer and happened upon this, that Mr wrote in February of 2009. Brings back lots of memories!

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

Having grown up in the frozen north, January has never been a month to look forward to. Oh sure, back in the 70’s, when we ate, drank and slept snowmobiles, it was a different story, but we were young and easily distracted. Winters in Kansas are not so bad. I love the warm spells, when they sneak up on you. So did my old buddy. He loved dozing in the sun, letting the unexpected heat soak into his bones. That Thursday was a beauty! 65 degrees and hardly a breeze. He decided to lay down and take a nap, or maybe his rear legs just said they had done enough and it was time to rest. Being a 29 year old horse, just about everything was clamoring for a rest. Being a 29 year old Arab, you normally just toughed it out and keep on going.

I knew something was up the moment we drove up the drive. He would always be coming down the ridge to meet us or already standing there, bellyaching that we were late for feeding time. This time, no old man impatiently waiting for grain. I went over to the shed and called for him, but I knew he would not be coming. I took my time walking up the ridge and out to the north pasture, just thinking about all we had done together.

He was 14 when we traded a thick-headed silly quarter horse that I did not love, for a spirited bay Arab with a lot of trail experience. He had been tragically named Foxy Commander or some such tripe as that.  Since we had dealings with the Lakota down along the Minnesota river, and sold them a horse that they never quite completely paid for, we decided to name him Ksapa. Means pretty much Foxy Commander in Lakota.

My wife was helping out at Reflection Farm, a large horse farm in South Central Minnesota, and she brought Ksapa out to show off. Everybody at the barn had left about 10 minutes before, on a trail ride, out in one of their pastures. She quickly saddled up the new guy and headed up the trail after them. She was making good time, gaining on them, when 5 of the farm dogs that had gone out with first bunch had decided to head back home, and were loping down the trail, directly at the Mrs. and her new horse. You ever see a horse canter in place? No, it’s not all the common, but that is what Ksapa did as those dogs charged down the path, directly at him. My wife was a bit wide eyed at the thought of him bolting and heading back to trailer, but he had better manners than that. The dogs just parted in the middle and swept past, while he held his ground with style.

He was quick as wink when asking him to go from a standing stop to a gallop, much like a barrel horse. I do confess to asking him for that trick many times. He also did not like to ride out alone, without any other horses for companionship. He would let you know this by shying sideways, from one side of the road to the other in an single bound. Quite amazing really. Something like 33 feet and I do not remember touching any ground between those two points. Once he learned that I would not come off his back, we went about our merry way.

He also was not shy about cooling off on a hot day. It was in the high 90’s and very humid when we met a group down on the Minnesota river for a trail ride. My wife was riding her Saddlebred mare, Daydream, and I had the old man. The other people were riding horses that had been on quite a few trail rides that spring. We pretty much just pulled our two out of the pasture, trailered them up and headed out. One of the trails we used that day crossed the Minnesota river. As it had been a dry spring, the river was only about 3 feet deep, but moving pretty fast. It so happens that I was riding drag on the trail and was the last to cross the river. Everybody else was waiting on the other side. I knew Ksapa had a wide range of experiences, so I was sure crossing the river was not going to be a problem. Remember, it’s very hot and humid as we size up the river. I ask him, and we just step right in and make for the other side. About the middle of the river, I notice that all of a sudden, it was getting deep, fast. Doggone if he did not try to roll on me in the river. I wise up about the time my foot is caught between him and the river bottom. Having read Louis L’amour, I knew just what to do. Grabbing a rein I pulled his head under the water. Boink, up like a cork we pop, and then wade on through to the other side. Much laughter and ribbing from the dry people, although I felt quite refreshed after our dip. We finished the ride a couple of hours later with the other horses just dragging back to the trail head. My old Arab was fresh as a daisy, prancing and jigging back to the trailer.

KsapaWindow

Yes, he was a character, my old buddy was. A survivor too. In 2002, when the West Nile virus broke out in Minnesota, all four of our horses were at Reflection Farm while we were moving. Horses started dropping left and right.  Spiff, our beautiful Pinto Saddlebred gelding, went down, then Daydream. Ksapa got the damn virus but stood his ground and survived. Thankfully Riff never got sick. It took him a good year to get back to normal. Feisty as ever but a good friend. You could throw a saddle on him or just go bareback. He was ready to go.

Two weeks ago I noticed his hind quarters losing a lot of flesh. He was getting very slow going up the ridge. I found him near the north fence, with our 3 other horses standing around him. His back legs had just quit working. Maybe the West Nile virus finally did get him. I kneeled down next to him, putting my hand out to his muzzle. He reached his nose up and nickered. I sat there and we chatted for a good long while, as the other horses stood around us.

Riff finally edged me out. She was his best friend. She was his protector when we got the Appaloosas. She grew up with Ksapa, and she stood by him until the end.

SunKsapa

I miss my old man.

Goodbye Ksapa. Run with the wind.

February, 2009

Pretty Squirrelly

Is squirrel edible? Many years ago, I was camping with a group of friends. Stayed up late around the fire and finally crawled into my sleeping bag. Someone woke me up around 3 am with “squirrel’s ready – want some?” No, I really didn’t at that point, or any time since then! While I do enjoy good venison, duck, goose and turkey, I’m not real experienced with wild game. Had rabbit once, and thought it was OK, but did not want any the second time it was available.

The Mr has been getting into the idea of bushcrafting, and finally talked me into trying squirrel again. He lured a couple of them in, boom! and had them all skinned and ready for cooking, so my part was relatively easy. Finish cleaning them up, cut them into serving size pieces, soak them in a buttermilk mixture overnight and braise. It actually came out pretty good. Here’s the recipe I followed, more or less:

Buttermilk Fried Squirrel

2 or 3 young squirrels, cut into serving pieces

2 cups buttermilk

1 medium onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon tarragon (or a teaspoon each of your 3 favorite dried herbs)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

1 – 2 cups vegetable oil or pork fat (I used the pork fat I had left over when I made sausage recently)

Soak the squirrel overnight in buttermilk with onions, garlic, herbs, paprika and cayenne pepper. Drain in a colander, leaving some herbs on the meat. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne, as well as a dash of salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on medium-high heat until a pinch of flour starts to sizzle when dropped in the hot oil but not so the pan is smoking. Place the squirrel pieces in the flour and coat each one completely. Add the squirrel to the skillet and fry on one side for about 10 minutes, until golden brown, and then use tongs to turn the pieces over and fry for another 10 minutes, again until golden brown. Be careful to keep the oil hot enough to fry the squirrel, but not so that it burns. When the squirrel is nicely browned, add some chicken or beef stock to the pan, cover and simmer for about 2 hours or until it is very tender. I used my mother in law’s old electric frying pan, set to 350 degrees for the browning and about 225 for the simmering. Serve with gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetable like corn or peas.

The Last Squeal

More food thoughts from Mrs RB3

Last year, we bought a whole pig and had it butchered, so we’ve had plenty of pork to eat. Most of the hams, roasts, chops and ribs are gone, just one package of bacon, one roast and a 69few odds and ends left. It will be difficult to go back to store bought meat when we move; we sure have enjoyed it. Since not all the meat fits into a defined format, we also had several packages of miscellaneous meat and fat.

80When you have four large bags of pork scraps in the freezer, you start dreaming about making sausage and lard, right? I had taken the pork out of the freezer, planning to process it today, but my dream brain just didn’t want to quit!70

First, I pulled out as much fat as I could. There were lots of lumps of pure fat in with the scraps of meat, so they all went into a pot to be rendered down into lard. Next, I mixed brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne and sage and sprinkled the mixture over the meat, mixing it in as best I could. It was a large cake pan filled to overflowing so mixing was not real easy.72

Clear off the table, cover it with a dish towel and some plastic cutting mats, and get out the meat grinder. I have an old one like Grandma Emma used, but this one is a bit newer and stainless steel. Attach it to the corner of the table and start grinding.

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Fourteen bags later, we now have some of the best breakfast sausage we’ve ever tasted in the freezer, conveniently packaged in meal sized portions. Not to mention two pounds of lard. Grandma would approve.98

 

We also had some wonderfully tasty pork cheese burgers for lunch, and Sweet Pea has lots of yummy treats in the fridge.

Note to brain: I would rather do the work than dream about it all night.

Buffalo BLT, an update from the Mrs

Our tomatoes are starting to ripen, but so far only the cherry tomatoes are usable. So we went to the local farmers market yesterday and got a few nice big ripe tomatoes. Sliced up some of our homemade bacon, from the pig we had butchered last year. Baked a fresh loaf of whole wheat bread this morning and toasted a couple of slices. So, Mr had one of his favorite meals ever, BLT on toast with Miracle Whip.

I had a buffalo BLT salad! Fried up the odds and ends of bacon, poured off the fat to save for other uses, and mixed the pieces with the left over buffalo wing sauce from yesterday. A nice bed of romaine lettuce with a few fresh basil leaves, some chopped fresh tomato, a little bleu cheese, the buffalo wing sauced bacon bits, and topped with bleu cheese dressing.

Meanwhile, Tomato King and Tomato Queen were enjoying their favorite meal, fresh grasshoppers. I looked up some information about them – they are Eastern Collared Lizards, and they will eat just about anything that is moving that they can fit in their mouths, but grasshoppers are best. They are very welcome here.

TQ-&-TK

Now for this week’s lunches. Potato soup for Mr, his favorite lunch. Chop about 1/2 cup each of celery, carrots and onion and start them cooking in some of the bacon fat and fond (see Alton Brown, Good Eats) in the large pot I used earlier to cook the odds and ends of bacon. When they are fairly soft, add about 2 cups chopped potato and 1 quart of the stock I made yesterday from the wing tips with onion, celery, carrot and jalapeño.

Keep simmering until the potatoes are done, then stir about 1/2 cup of flour into a quart of milk, and add that to the pot. Stir in a few ounces of cheese, I like pepper jack, and cook and stir until it is all bubbly and thickened. If you like it smoother you can use a stick blender, but Mr likes the chunks of potatoes.

Season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne powder, paprika, parsley, dry mustard, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. This makes about 3 quarts of soup, which I put into 4 quart jars so he has a nice lunch Monday through Thursday, with lots of saltine crackers, of course. I’ll take some green salad, some of the potato salad left from yesterday, and maybe some tuna or crab meat for a little extra protein.

First-we-do-our-work

In case it sounds like all I’ve done all weekend is cook, I did manage to get the yard mowed and the laundry done. Both are dependent on weather, and both are somewhat time consuming, since we have a small push mower and about 1/2 acre to mow, and we do not have a dryer and hang everything on the line to dry.

Mowing

95 degrees and sunny – perfect day for mowing, right? Since our yard crew 3Horsesmoved south a few months ago, I decided I needed a small lawn mower, just for the 1/2 acre or so around the house. A few weeks ago I went to Sears, where the salesman showed me everything from the little person-powered reel mower to the big honking self propelled gas monsters. While I hemmed and hawed and gravitated towards the cheaper end of the store, he told me he actually had this particular model for his own yard. Said it worked pretty well on his lawn in town, which is fairly small, level and even. Yup, the tag said it was best for level, even lawns, but it was also about the cheapest of the gas powered push mowers.

NewMowerSo, I decided to try that one. Good price and it looked light enough for me to push up and down our not-level, not-even yard. Some people have the impression that Kansas is pretty flat. Not here on the edge of the Flint Hills. I got the mower home, put some gas in it and started it up. Noted that there was an instruction book, but remembered what my Dad said about that, he only read them to see if they were written correctly. Just a few pushes on the primer button, and it started on the first pull. Not bad.

Set it about half way up, since the grass & weeds were not too tall at that time, and made it through about 1/4 acre without being completely exhausted. Next day did the same thing, pretty much finished the yard, and have to say I’m pretty happy with my little mower. For being built for level, even surfaces, it goes up and down my occasionally 45 degree vertical yard pretty well. Limestone rocks, black walnuts and hedge apple branches, no problem.Mower

Now, if we could just figure out how to get the rest of the 20 acres of grass, weeds and red sumach under control! Might have talk to the local crop duster.

When I finished as much as I could handle today, most of the north half of the yard, I came in to shower and cool off. As I closed the door, I had the sensation of something moving past my left ear, and then heard something hit the floor. Looking down, I saw a little frog hopping into the corner. Still not sure if it was on the door or on my head when I walked in. Everybody wants to get in out of the heat, right?

Northern Soul Food

Velveeta Cheese was invented in 1918, by Emil Frey of the Monroe Cheese Company in New York. In 1923, the Velveeta Cheese Company was incorporated as a separate company, and was sold to Kraft Foods in 1927. At that time, it was advertised as a nutritious health food. According to Kraft, it became the first cheese product to gain the American Medical Association’s seal of approval!

Somewhere around the early 1970’s Mr’s mother, always on the lookout for tasty, nutritious food that the family would willingly eat, tried a recipe that included Velveeta, Campbell’s tomato soup, and bacon. How could she go wrong? It became known as yummy buns in Mr’s family, and it is still one of our favorites. Works great as a bribe when we need the boys to help with projects around the homestead.YummyBuns

Apparently, there is a similar recipe known as white trash sliders, that is popular in the South, but up Nort’, we still call ’em yummy buns. Sort of a Lutheran soul food.

Here is the original recipe:

6 slices bacon (1/2 lb), cut up
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 lb hamburger
1 cup cubed Velveeta cheese (1/2 lb)
1 can Campbell’s tomato soup
4 to 6 Hamburger buns, split

Fry the bacon until almost done, add the onion and hamburger, cook until the onion is soft and the hamburger is no longer pink, and drain off any excess fat. Add the cheese and soup, and stir until cheese is melted. Broil the buns until golden brown; a bit of charring is preferred. Spread with filling and broil until tops are well browned, even a bit black in spots.

Healthy Food

Healthy food. We need a healthy food post. How about yogurt?

Pliny_the_ElderPeople all over the world have been making and consuming yogurt for thousands of years. Yogurt can be made from the milk of cows, water buffalo, goats, sheep, mares, camels or yaks. We usually use cow’s milk. The oldest writings mentioning yogurt are attributed to Pliny the Elder, who remarked that certain barbarous nations knew how to thicken milk into a substance with an agreeable acidity.

The “milk” in the biblical reference to “the land flowing with milk and honey” was actually a fermented yogurt style drink. Yogurt contains far less lactose and lasts longer than “sweet milk”, or fresh milk, allowing the Israelites the opportunity to consume the beverage for an extended period of time. The scholar Nachmanides comments on the term “flowing”, stating that it is the key word in the sentence. Just as livestock produce higher quantities of milk when they are living in fertile pastures, The Promised Land is a particularly fertile place – one that is symptomatic of the greater good.

Yogurt gives us healthy amounts of protein, calcium, vitamins, potassium, magnesium and probiotics, and yogurt may even help prevent high blood pressure. So why not make our own? It’s really pretty simple, and you don’t need any fancy tools, just a stainless steel pot, a non-reactive (silicon) whisk, a food thermometer, a quart or two of milk and a little yogurt with active cultures as a starter. If you make it every couple of weeks, just use the last bit left in the jar as your starter.

Here’s how you do it: Heat the milk in a stainless steel pot to 180 degrees, stirring frequently with aYogurt silicon whisk to prevent sticking and burning. Let it cool to 110 degrees, and then whisk in 1 or 2 tablespoons of yogurt, and pour into clean jars. Place the jars, covered with towels, in a warm place, about 90 to 100º (an older gas oven with a pilot is perfect). Leave it alone for 8 to 12 hours until it’s fairly firm, and then refrigerate. It is good all by itself, or mixed with oatmeal and/or fruit (maybe a little sugar or honey if you like it sweeter). It’s really good with some frozen berries, a banana, and a little cinnamon and honey, blended for 30 seconds. Almost like ice cream!

Good Friday Rebuttal from Mrs

After reading the last post here, Good Friday, I must submit my rebuttal.

While it is true that I lived in California for about 15 years, and maybe could have been considered somewhat of a “hippy chick”, I really didn’t “do time” there. I mostly worked and attended college. Actually rather proud of the fact that I earned a 4 year degree without any debt, even if it did take me 10 years. That’s what happens when you work full time and go to school part time.

I also developed a taste for somewhat unusual food, from a midwest point of view. I love sushi, and I will remind everyone that sushi is vinegared rice, sometimes but not always served with raw fish. Sashimi is raw fish, sushi is not raw fish. One of the best things I ate there was really fresh salmon, fresh caught and cooked over an open fire right there on the beach. Amazing stuff, and something I keep looking for even though I know anything I find in a midwest grocery store won’t really come close.

Anyway, today is Good Friday, we have a day off from work, and I had found some reasonably good fresh salmon in the local grocery store. We also had some left over mashed potatoes, gravy, and some fresh kale. I found a recipe for Polish Pancakes that sounded pretty good. It’s really just cooked potatoes mixed with a beaten egg, some flour, salt and pepper, sauteed in olive oil in a very hot pan until brown and crispy. The gravy went pretty well with that and with the salmon, which I also sauteed in a hot pan with olive oil. You must have something green with a meal like that, so I cooked some frozen peas for Mr (pretty boring veg if you ask me).
good-friday-mine
Since I had noticed a can of hominy while cleaning a cupboard recently and did not remember why I bought it, I looked up some recipes for that, also. The one I found most interesting was browning the hominy in olive oil and butter with onion, garlic, jalapeno and red pepper flakes, so I had made some of that a few days ago, and of course had left overs.

good-friday-hersKale is not a vegetable with which I am familiar. I did try making kale chips a while ago, and they’re not bad, but not something I would make for myself very often. Mr declines to try anything that far out of his comfort zone. But kale is supposed to be very healthy, so I decided to try again. How about sauteed kale?

The holy trinity of French cooking is onion, celery and carrots, also known as mirepoix. The holy trinity of Cajun or Creole cooking is onion, celery and bell pepper. My personal holy trinity of cooking is onion, garlic and jalapeno. So both the hominy and the kale got sauteed with onion, garlic and jalapeno. Not bad. Kale is still a bit bitter and chewy, but pretty tasty.

Now if I could just get Mr to try some of my favorites, I wouldn’t have to fix two meals in one!

Ketchup

I like ketchup. I like it on hot dogs, hamburgers, hash browns & eggs, french fries and onion rings. I know it’s not an acceptable gourmet item, but I still like it. Lately, however, my favorite brands have changed. I don’t know what they have done, but it does not have the same flavor. Since we’re trying to get away from artificial and unhealthy foods anyway, I decided to try making my own ketchup.

Mr had asked for spaghetti and meatballs for Sunday dinner. Spaghetti sauce starts out with the same basic ingredients as ketchup: tomato, onion and garlic, so before I finished seasoning the sauce, I scooped out some for my experimental ketchup batch. Pureed it mostly smooth and started adding flavors.

Reaching for my favorite wooden spoon to give it a stir, I started reflecting on that spoon. I don’t remember exactly when or where I got it, but I think it was in California, so somewhere between 1971 and 1986. We’ve done a lot of traveling, and a lot of stirring since then. A bit worse for wear, but still able to get the job done.

And the ketchup turned out pretty good, too. Spicier than the commercial stuff, but that’s OK. Your eyebrows are supposed to sweat, right?