A Winter Evening

H and I are sitting here at the table, both with our laptops open, clicking away, with a cutting board between us.

On the cutting board: a wedge of Two Rivers goat milk Gouda from the Granary Coop, a section of turkey sausage gifted at the end of a visit to Lismore Colony, and a quart jar of pickled roasted sweet peppers from the garden.  A box of whole grain crackers.

I guess this sounds more like a snack or appetizer, but it’s a second course instead since we split the last of a very good chicken-borlotto bean soup I made a couple of days ago with all sorts of frozen and dried vegetables from this year’s garden (the beans were from 2009–I’m still hoarding a few cups in a big honey jar).

It was a nice day despite the cold–M was here and he tried on his new snowshoes and I put on my thrift store finds and we went romping around in the yard.  We’re staying off the lake since last I checked it was a bit slushy under the snow.  I think the insulation on top is keeping the cold air out–and the water underneath is eating at the ice.  All the shanties are gone for now, but the snowmobilers continue careening back and forth.

This afternoon in Clinton there was a Christmas bingo for the kids and everyone won a prize.  M glommed onto a 2-liter bottle of bright red artificially-flavored (and colored, I assume) strawberry soda, which is what happens when you almost never allow pop in your house.

I was told there were ten dollar bills up on the prize table, but my deprived boy goes for the 99-cent nutritional disaster. At least it didn’t have caffeine–though he knows better than to try for Mountain Dew or cola.

I know my prohibition on soda most of the time and caffeinated pop all of the time is a Maginot line–he’s flanking my home defenses at friends’ houses and maybe even at school sometimes (and that really upsets me), but that doesn’t make my rule useless.

We have to set some boundaries, after all, if we want our kids to know what is and isn’t good food.

Speaking of good food, the seed catalogs are starting to come in at a good clip, and I am dreaming about next year’s garden even if I don’t know where it will be quite yet.

It’s comforting to have some leads, and I do know I’ll be ordering a goodly quantity of the aforementioned borlotto bean seed because home-grown shell beans are one of the best foods there is.

I used to think it wasn’t worth the work to grow dried beans–but the varieties you can find at most grocery stores are incredibly limited, and more than once I’ve brought some home only to find them unresponsive to prolonged soakings.

My beans, even after a little over a year in storage, still plump up happily overnight–which makes me wonder how old some of the standard shelf beans really are.  Three years? Five?

Plus, fresh shell beans from the garden are a wonder–you can practically eat them plain, boiled, and naked and still feel you’re in foodie heaven–add a little sea salt, garlic, and oil, and earthly bliss is your very own.

I’ve been feeling the bliss, too, about this organic broiler chicken from my friends at Prairie Sun which I’ve managed to stretch out into several meals.

Last week, I fell into a cranberry craving (caused, I think, by forgetting to ask for cranberry sauce leftovers from Thanksgiving), so I had a couple meals of chicken salad with thin-sliced raw onion and chopped raw cranberries, and then a pasta dish (above) with chicken and sauteed onion and cranberries in a creamy yogurt sauce with thyme.

I thought it was weird that the cranberries were shelf-labeled as “Ocean Spray” when they were, in fact, independent Wisconsin family-farmed Wetherby cranberries.  Sad that there’s seemingly no skirting the industry leader name–but I was happy to have these close-to-home berries.

The chicken-onion-cranberry concoctions took care of most of the meat, but the great thing about a whole chicken is that it’s a gift that keeps on giving–I made stock out of the bones and found there was still quite a bit of meat flaking off after that long-cooking, and that plus the stock went into my soup.

I made biscuits with the fat (I’m told it’s called schmalz or schmaltz) skimmed from the top of the chilled stock.  The dog got to gobble up the skin and bits of cartilage.  So the only thing left in the end was some long-simmered and very clean bones.  I try to make the most of what meat I eat.

The thing I really wish I could get my hands on for the holidays is a little of my friend Bob’s Dakota Harvest grass-fed lamb, but it looks like I may have to trek to Omaha for that–his lamb has been praised in the French cafe restaurant review, and he’s also supplying the Grey Plume, which was recently named America’s “greenest” restaurant.

He’s going to be a very busy man.  Not that he isn’t already.  And he totally deserves the acclaim–he raises an incredible quality product.

Anyhow, to top off our cozy evening at home, H went out to his truck to fetch a bar of chocolate he brought with him, and while he was out, I thought about what sweet treat I might like to top off our leisurely meal.

And so now we are sharing the slightly decadent dessert of almond-laced chocolate squares with the last of the 2009 season home-canned pie cherries in rum-spiked sugar syrup which we may or may not be eating straight out of the jar ahem–in dainty fine china saucers, of course. 😉



3 responses

  1. Hard to believe it’s seed catalog time already. Are there any veggies you can grow in real shade? I can’t think of any, but I do have a tiny patch of real dirt at my new place if there’s anything that can handle so little light.

    • Heavy shade is rough–but you might try some lettuce or other greens. Have you considered pots that can be moved into sun? Or thinning branches on your trees? If your trees are deciduous, you might get an early crop of arugula in and get it growing well before the trees leaf out…esp if you have a cold frame.

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