Saturday, January 29, 2011


If you are like us, you also have a ridiculous amount of winter squash to use up. Just kidding, I don't know why or who else would be in this situation, I was just trying to relate to my readers. We milked what we could out of all those potatoes, but after making one last batch of potato soup last week, we decided to pitch them.
The squash is still good and raring to go.
This Christmas, Nate got two awesome gifts that we will both be enjoying. His parents got him a subscription to Cooks Illustrated, which comes out bi-monthly. We haven't received a new one yet, but the one his parents gave him was full of good ideas.
Like last year, my parents got him Bon Appetit magazine and they had two recipes with butternut squash that we were excited about. We tried one of them yesterday.
[With half of one squash I made butternut lasagna on Thursday. It was amazing and really great, but I didn't take any pics of it. (If you want to try it, it is a combination of this one and this one.)]
Last night I made Butternut Squash Quesadilla from BA.

These meals brought to you by the color orange.
I kicked the kitty off right after I took this picture, promise.

I learned this cooking method from my mother in law: quarter the squash (or only half, it depends on how big it is), then steam it in a steam basket. I think I let it steam for about 30-45 minutes. Then just scoop it out of the skin, quick (hands on time) and easy.
I like this method especially if you are going to puree it for soup or the lasagna. You can also peel it with a vegetable peeler and cube the squash for roasting, but I don't think that my peeler is sturdy enough for that, and I didn't want my fingers to be orange till next week. (The BA recipe called for packaged squash, psht.)

The quesadilla:
toast some tortillas using your broiler

saute an onion, add the squash, set aside

in the same pan saute black beans in hot oil; add chopped garlic and salsa; mash with a potato masher; add more salsa; add chili powder

spread the beans on one tortilla, squash on another, monterrey jack cheese on another, and leave one blank

put them in the broiler till the cheese melts

stack them like so: beans (add some cilantro), cheese, squash, blank.
I popped them back in after the were assembled to heat up, so I think that next time maybe I will skip the broiling that you do before you stack it.

It looked like this:

It is very good, fun flavors, and huge. I made two, we have leftovers.

If you want the real recipe I'll be glad to give it to you. It was in a section for quick and fresh dinners, more of which we'll be trying.

Stay tuned: blanket on commission from Aunt Mary is underway. It's really coming along. I haven't done a whole lot with it since last weekend, but I really knocked a lot of it out while Nate and I had that nasty cold last week. I was waiting to share pics until I show it to her, unless she doesn't mind seeing it on here along with my 6 other readers. Do you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bird zombies

So, when I go see Nate at work I walk through a show barn to get to the office. The only parking right in front of the office building is for handicapped visitors, and I am neither. There are a variety of animals in the show barn: lamas, pigs, goats, sheep, sheepdogs getting a break from the heat (and their job, if you ask me), chickens, ducks. The birds just roam and a group of ducks hangs out. They were napping today so they were hunkered down with their heads and beaks folded into their wings. Even though they were asleep today they were still quacking and it was that real soft, short quacking, like Donald Duck sleeping. Hilarious.

The most convenient way to the high school I went to was in and out of a park. The entrance and exit passed close by the paddle-boat pond. The bank of the pond usually had ducks hanging out in the grass. One spring day I was driving home with my friend Jessica and the ducks were crossing the street very casually and leisurely. They were holding up hundreds of new drivers that had just been released from a day in school. The best part is that ducks can only walk so fast, but they look like they are trying to run, but its only an awkward waddle. We opened the window and heard that quiet quacking. We were really tickled at their oblivion, I don't know why. But when I see a group of ducks I laugh to myself and think of Jess.

My point is this, ducks are funny, always. They curl up like that to sleep, their only mode of transportation on dry land is a waddle, they soak their little duck heads while their floating, its all very cute. I crack a smile when I see one, the more in the group the funnier.

What I encountered today in the show barn was straight from an uncomfortable dream. Not a nightmare because I think that would be a little dramatic, but one of those dreams that woke you with your heart beating just a little faster than usual and you are relieved that its not real.
Turkeys are always hanging around the show barn, and they are free to roam as they please.
Turkeys give me the willies. I love birds, but all birds have that dead in the eye look, but its more noticeable with big birds. And turkeys have those heads. Blech, who wants to look at that. Hence the post title, I think that is the most apt description of a turkey in terms of how it makes me feel.

So here they are coming at me. The males were threatened by my presence as you can see.

They may look like bird zombies, but they move like the wind as you can see from the blurry picture.

They wanted to see what this gal was up to. She was picking through all the cans on the work bench looking for goodies.
Every time I go to see Nate at work I am delighted by the show barn. (I try not to let the turkeys bother me, their days are numbered after all. About 80% of the food served at the cafeteria comes from the ranch itself, so you know what that means.) He works at such a beautiful place and they do good work and it usually brightens my day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Squash soup

We still have a good amount of squash left from Nate's parents. I have been wanting to make some soup out of it but have been putting it off. After seeing this post from Posie Gets Cozy I decided to give it a shot. I used a combination of a few recipes, the one from Posie, the squash soup from Joy of Cooking, and the pumpkin soup recipe from Joy.
I roasted all the vegetables (squash, onions, garlic).

Then Nate and I scraped out the squash and cooked it in chicken broth.

Then I used my hand blender for the first time ever. It was AMAZING! I will use it all the time now. It completely blended the onions, which I left in wedges when I roasted them. We heated it back up on the stove and I added two cups of milk.

I added some chili powder and cinnamon and we had green beans to go with it.

It was really great, the only thing we used from the grocery store were spices and the garlic.
I think the next time I'll tell you about the venison chili we had this week too.
Have you tried any new recipes this winter?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow day

Listen, I know its not a big deal to you northerners, but we got some pretty good snow down here. I think everything is shut down. You can laugh, but when there are no plows and no salt trucks, you may as well just pack it in and call it a day.

This is yesterday afternoon.

This is our bird feeder last night.

This is what we woke up to!

And these little guys, really chowing down.

That's a male cardinal back there, he was more shy.

This guy was OUT OF HIS MIND.
There was a moment where a little bird got really close to the window that I thought he was going to go through it.
This is why we were so thrilled to get the feeder, for kitty torture.

That's our snow down here, anyone else get any?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hometown Shout-out

Not technically hometown, but Nate brought home an unwanted issue of Southern Living (unbelievable, right?), and there were a few great items featured from WV. It made me nostalgic and I thought that those of you in WV might want to know about it, and those of you who miss WV will have some pride for the Mountain Mama.

The Best of the South spread featured breakfast items "Made by Southern Hands." After having a debate about whether Missouri was "South" and then the arguments for and against WV being considered "South," we agreed that the items from WV were cool nonetheless, and pledged to try to make it to both of these places if we have the chance.

First is Blenko Glass is Milton, WV. The had really cute glass tumblers featured, but I got online and saw that they had lots of great gift ideas: wedding gifts, housewarming, collegiate things for you devoted or wannabe alumni. They have items that you could use everyday, and more artsy things for those of you with formal living rooms (not here!).
They also have demonstrations, which reminded me of going to Fenton with with my grandmother
Some links to my favorite items.
Water bottles
I really like all the colors, but that crystal one at the top looks nice.
These bowls are cool too, the blue is my favorite.
They have lots of silly, other college teams represented, but I know you will all go looking for this one. Maybe this one too. And before this past Tuesday, maybe you would have been jazzed about this one.

The other one featured was from Allegheny Treenware in Thornton, WV. They had a beautiful wooden, handled butter dish.
Again, they had lots of great items, but our favorites were measuring spoons and cups,
kitty paw tongs (duh), and all these gift sets are amazing.

I just thought that both of these sites were worth a look and worth knowing they exist.
It made us both decide to search out local artwork, or artisans in the areas we live and visit. These would make great souvenirs or gifts. Nate's parents and his dear friends are very good at this. We have received some really great really great pottery pieces from all of them, all mostly local to their locations (see this post for bird feeder).

Loosely related ramble...
This made me think about the ole wedding registry. As we received gifts for the wedding, we loved getting the things we had been looking forward to that were on the registry. For me: fiesta, china, silverware!, blender!. For Nate: grilling utensils, knife set, cutting boards.
But those off the registry gifts that make us think of our loved ones are great too. My dear friend gave us two antique crystal with sterling filigree glasses that are on our china hutch. Her mom gave us some pottery made locally in KY that is beautiful. I'm sure they gave it to us both to use and as a reminder of mine and Kelsey's shared taste in old things, to remind us where we met and dated, that they promised to pray for us everyday for the first year of our marriage, and how much we love our former (not really former, you know what I mean) church family. And that's great too! Warm fuzzies always come when we talk about the wedding, and its mostly because of how awesome friends and fam.
But we always come to this realization: I'm never planning a wedding again, Hallelujah! (Nate says, "It was great! I'm never doing that again!)

Now I'm curious,
Did you all get any off the registry treasures for your wedding or baby?

Friday, January 7, 2011

More food

Nate and I had one of our first dinners featuring things from his mom and dad's garden. His parents grew more things than I can name here, so I won't try.
They did a lot of canning and freezing to preserve their loot from the garden. Some things they froze whole (like peppers) or just canned by themselves (like tomatoes and green beans). They also did batches of different recipes and then canned or froze those. For example, we have a variety of salsas, jellies, jams, and ketchup (I'm excited to try that).
So far one of the highlights are homemade jalapeno poppers. We had them with Nate's parents at Christmas, with my parents at Christmas, as a NYE snack, and last night for dinner. They are amazing, and some of them have bacon!
For dinner last week we had some stuffed peppers that they made and froze. They are amazing. They sent us home with stuffed sweet peppers and stuffed spicy peppers, so we tried them both. They were very good and I'm thinking that this is what I'll do with the frozen whole peppers they sent us.

To go with the peppers we also had canned green beans from the garden and pasta with homemade spaghetti sauce. Also amazing, of course.

see the cookbook holder Nate got me in the background? Its handy!

I had also done some bread earlier in the day so we had that too (bread from the cookbook Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, that cookbook probably deserves it's own post so I won't go into it here). To season the green beans I cooked them with a little apple cider vinegar, but I probably didn't need anything other than a little salt.
There are both of the peppers, Nate thinks the little ones are poblanos. They were more flavorful than "spicy." They didn't burn me like the poppers do.
So there you go, our first meal made primarily of garden loot. It was very good!
Here's to eating as well as we do!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Gift Parade

We had a great Christmas: safe travels, great food, fun with family and friends! The kitty really missed us and when we returned he was reckless with his affection. Even as I write, the kitty has climbed on my lap and is sitting half on the laptop, touching the mouse pad, staring longingly at my fingers as they type wishing that I would use them to scratch him. He's pathetic. We think he periodically forgets that we're back and he walks around another part of the house squawking (if you have a cat you know what I mean), until we call him, he remembers we're here, and comes running.
But I digress, this is not a kitty blog*, it is a make things blog, and boy did I make things this Christmas.
In addition to the crocheting I did for around the house, I also crocheted gifts for my side of the family and our Christmas gift to Nate's nephew was an afghan.

So, I have been putting this post off until after Christmas so I would not give anything away.
1. I made my sister-in-law granny-square slippers. I got the pattern here (I love the gals over there, so many great ideas). I have had my eye on this pattern and was waiting for a good time/person to make these for. Since the SIL will be a stay at home mommy soon, I thought that maybe she could use some new house slippers. As a side note, it turns out that my great-Nanny (my dad's nanny) used to make slippers as an annual Christmas gift for the family! And she did granny squares once! What a coincidence.

2. Ski cap for my brother.
My brother called a few weeks ago to ask if I thought I could make him a hat. I was thrilled, of course. The only stipulations were that it be Mountaineer colors and have a pom-pom. I think our dad had one fitting that description when we were little. Anyways, I used this pattern for a hat I made for my uncle last year while he was going through some nasty chemo (it's all nasty, right?) and I really liked it. The pattern calls for very bulky yarn and its in single crochet, so its very dense and I would imagine, pretty warm. The pom is my favorite.

3. Surprise! A ski cap for my dad.
Nate and I liked Sean's so much that we figured that Dad would be pretty excited about one too, so I just used opposite colors. I think it was a hit! By the way, Nate was a great head model for these, they turned out just right.

4. A scarf for my mom.
I looked and looked for a pattern for my mom. She wanted something simple that wasn't super long, and it just seemed like everything I found on ravelry was really lacy or decorative, so I just made this pattern up. Maybe sometime I'll write down what I did, but I would have to look at it again. I made it with my favorite cotton, so it is very soft. It might pill and shed a little, we will have to see. I whipped it up a couple weeks ago while Nate and I watched Millions. (I highly recommend that movie, especially during the holidays, I think its so sweet.) Here is the scarf being blocked. Maybe mom can take a better picture and submit it to the blog.

5. A baby blanket for Baby G.
Nate and I picked out this yarn for The G (his awesomeness cannot be contained to one moniker). Nate is really good at picking out yarn. For real. This is one of my favorite baby blanket patterns, I think Special G is the 3rd child to receive a blanket from the round ripple pattern. I will do it again, I'm sure. Nate was dead on with the colors because Little G's parents said, "Oh wow, these are the exact colors in his nursery." I kid you not, Nate's awesome.

I also made assorted ornaments for family members. I do not believe these were photographed. I also made some dishtowels/hotpads for an extended family White Elephant gift exchange. I think they were popular, they were stolen once!
I did not get pictures of any of these, but if anyone has one I'll put 'em up.

I really enjoyed making these things and Nate and I had fun planning out colors and thinking up things that people would like. I hope I can always find homemade gifts that people want, because I love making them!

Not a Christmas present.
My dear friend and one-time roommate was married on Thanksgiving Day this year, and although this wasn't a Christmas present per se, it certainly seemed like it and it is linked with the holiday in my mind. They live way up north where it's cold, so they need all the blankets for snuggling they can get. When I started with the colors I did the brown up against the green and it looked like camo. I had a panic attack**, but kept going and I think the white broke it up nicely. This is a super pattern and I will 100% use it again.

Obligatory cat picture. He snuggles like this fairly often. Like I said, ridiculous.

Upcoming things:
My other SIL (the newer one, new to me I mean) commissioned me to make an infinity scarf, its like a long cowl-scarf. We bought the yarn over Thanksgiving, and I think I have FINALLY decided on a stitch I like. Again, couldn't find a pattern I loved, but I'm excited about it and from what I've already worked with the yarn I'm a big fan.

I might do an afghan for my aunt. We discussed meeting at a mutually convenient Hobby Lobby to get yarn that will match their new favorite room in their house. I have ideas.

I have also been brainstorming ideas for my bro's bundle. I'm sure baby crafting will have a large place on the blog in the coming months.

Stay tuned for a post in which I sing the praises of both of our parents. Mine for sending lots of meat home with us. Nate's for sending the fruits of their garden. Especially for the stuffed peppers, hallelujah (that's how I felt when I ate them). So far we've been to the store for half and half, and some fruit, that's it. And there's more where that came from.

*Feel free to make fun of me if I post too much about the kitty. Some days its just me and him and I forget that not everyone talks to their cats like a human, I don't know why they don't, but apparently they don't.

** There's nothing inherently wrong with crocheting camo, its just not what I was going for in this particular project. And its probably safe to say that it would always be wrong for this particular friend..., I can't think of an instance.
But I totally would do it for someone else, perhaps if my father took up bow hunting.