Behind the Kitchen Scenes~

19 12 2010

I’m finally off work and can begin to catch up on the things that have been going on.  This is a shot of the stage and emcee’s podium for the concert this year.  You can’t see the snowflakes hanging above the chorus or the audience in this shot, nor the foyer, but there was plenty of snow falling!  LOL!  The podium came out pretty well.

Yes…it was hand painted…every single “brick.”  Was.  Past-tense.  History.  But it was worth it!  It was totally different from anything we’ve ever done…  I think the emcee was afraid I was going to ask him to wear a Santa suit though.  He didn’t even talk to me that night! LOL!

In between other things, the weather has been changeable… Decently pretty one day, soaking and cold the next…Freezing somewhere along the way just for a fun surprise.  That means we’ve had some juggling with the various outside animals, to keep them relatively comfy.  Here awhile back, someone mentioned that they’d like to see my hens…so here in all their glory are my chookies…

This is my little flock.  The two black hens are Silver Cuckoo Marans and lay “Large” very dark brown eggs, sometimes referred to as chocolate brown eggs.  Their names are Crooked Beak and Henny-Penny.   The feather-footed “bantams” were adopted from Horse Plus Humane Society before they experienced the dog attack.  I wasn’t planning to get a rooster…but this fellow is pretty mellow and certainly serves his purpose by herding his ladies in when it’s night-fall.  His “crow” is so quiet and mellow that it’s no trouble at all.  We rarely hear it, so we know the neighbors aren’t annoyed by it either.  We call him “Roo” and the hen hasn’t found her name yet.  We also haven’t had any eggs from her that we’re aware of.  Since her comb is such a pale pink, I doubt that she’s laying right now.  That’s ok.  The other two girls are keeping us well supplied right now.  They have a support light in their hen house, partially for heat, and so we continue to have eggs.  Don’t worry…they both took a good vacation during the summer months.  We didn’t get eggs for about 2 months.

Here’s an example of how the topography of my land changes with just a bit of rain… The shot above is in the summer…nice and dry…

This shot is after the first Fall rain…a little mucky, but not desperately bad.   This drained off quickly and dried out because the sun came out.  And then December came…and with it…R A I N… The rain has caused us to scramble a bit.  The mud, combined with a couple of freezing nights (which causes the soil to spread and accept more water even more deeply) has happily turned to severe muck…not good for a horse’s feet.  Last Saturday morning, I made the executive decision that Willow had to be moved, while we had a break in the weather. 

Fabulous decision!  Within mere days, the rain came in and decided to stay…for days and days and days on end…  Her paddock now looks like this…

It’s as though the stream jumps its banks here, and actually runs through the paddock.  It got deeper and you could actually see the current within half an hour of taking this picture.

Her lovely spot beneath the trees is completely under water right now.  She would easily be belly deep if she walked to the usual bank.

Here you can see the water flowing downstream, coming over the bottom of the fence panel.  We get quite a bit of run-off.  Fortunately, it does run off…

Bruce has already been out with Willow this morning, making sure the new area is draining.  She’s gotten it pretty sloppy up there as well, but it’s better packed up there.  That land has been grazed by cattle in the past, and is more compacted than down by the house.  It’s still muddy, but more easily drained.

Although you can’t see the top of the mesa, there’s a thousand foot mesa just outside my backyard.  Makes for nice scenery, but it also makes for some nasty wetness too.  That’s one reason we use raised beds.  I don’t have to wait as long for the ground to dry out.

And that’s just part of what’s been going on here at Rancho Roseberry! LOL!  I did a major “I’m getting ready to cook” shopping trip yesterday while I was out for other pleasures.  Thanks for a fabulous “girls lunch out” Ra!!  The pleasure of your company was gift enough!  I have pork and masa ready to start on for tamales. I have the needs for recipes for French Fridays with Dorie and Cooking Italy!  I really love the new book Cook the Books selected too!  Now if I’ll just pace myself, and enjoy it without overdosing! LOL!

And with that, I’m off to do something in the kitchen…It’s brunch time.  Happy Holiday Cooking and Merry Christmas!


FFwD: Leek and Potato Soup~

19 12 2010

It’s been busy.  It’s been chilly and rainy.  There’s nothing that works better on busy, rainy, chilly nights than a bowl of spirit and soul warming soup that tastes heavenly.  This is it.  So my choice this week is Dorie’s Leek and Potato soup from her book Around My French Table.  Get the book.  There are too many recipes that make the book worth it to count.  Tell Santa how incredibly good you really have been. Beg. Buy it yourself for yourself.  But if you don’t have it, get it.  It makes “French Cooking” elementary.

Back to the soup… Dorie is so easy… Creamy, chunky, this is your soup.  Hot or cold, this is your soup.  In other words, purée it for a smooth consistency, chill it to make vichyssoise, leave it chunky and peasant style…whatever suits your fancy…she’s that flexible with the outcome…just follow the extremely simple (and lower calorie) instructions than the usual French recipe and you’ve got it made.

Tasting Notes~
We enjoyed this with some hot bread and a salad.  Having made the LCB version of the same soup, this is a little less rich, a little less work, and a lot more home kitchen friendly without a great deal of loss of flavor.  Especially if you’ve gotten into the habit of making a little bouquet garni (a sprig of thyme, some celery tops, a bay leaf and a bit of fresh parsley wrapped in leek greens and tied into a package) to toss into little pots of broth…  Once you’ve learned how effective such little things are at generating huge flavors, you can apply them to a lot of recipes for great results.  I’ve started adding little bg’s to just about any generic broth I’ll be adding to something.  It really makes a difference in the flavors in the end.

I can’t comment enough on how versatile this recipe is.  With a tiny tweak of using clam juice and water and evaporated milk instead of water and milk, and adding lots of (sad to say, fresh weren’t available-rarely are!) canned, chopped clams, some diced celery and diced Yukon Gold potatoes, we had a really yummy clam chowder!  Ok, perhaps not strictly Boston nor “Pacific”…but it was thick and rich without any added roux, had a lovely underlying base flavor and was full of clams with the occasional potato or celery in a bite.  There was enough “clam” flavor in the soup to acknowledge it, without it being overwhelmingly “fishy.”  We’ll chat about that when I post about the clam chowder though!

Seriously…this soup is a keeper.  I can make this recipe without thinking now.  It’s that easy, and that good.