Sunday, January 27, 2013

Smoked Pork Roast

Really not much going on this weekend. I mostly relaxed and practiced violin. I also practiced a bit on a new instrument that I bought the Irish tin whistle.
Through the day Phil and I smoked a nice big pork roast in the smoker. I used the cherry wood chips that I had bought. They weren't as sweet smelling as the plum wood is but it was still excellent.

Late this afternoon Michelle looked out the window. We have been looking out at the bird feeders in the back yard a lot lately because a flock of pine warblers has found the feeders and they are usually loaded with birds. Anyway, she asked me, "Is that a vulture standing over that duck?" I knew it couldn't be a vulture and I was right (as I ran to the back door). It was a hawk and he had killed the duck. Phil came out and shot at it with the pellet gun but never hit it and didn't scare it off far. It hung around up in the trees for quite a while.  I had to go put the ducks back in their pen (they had all run in there anyway, I just had to shut the door and fill their water pan in there) and will have to leave them there until I am sure they will be ok in the back yard again. Rather depressing but hawks have to live too and they are beautiful birds (though I can't say that I was appreciating this ones beauty while I was screaming at it).

Monday, January 21, 2013

Kale and Mushroom Soup

So I was told yesterday morning that I needed to get going and make mushroom soup, so I did. I looked up some recipes, thought about what I had on hand and made my own like always. I had two packages of the large button mushrooms that I bought marked down yesterday plus a few dried oyster mushrooms.

I then thought about that nice pot of kale that is growing on the porch.

I really need to use those for something so I went out and picked some fresh kale leaves. The mushrooms and kale went into the crock pot with a quart of homemade stock, a nice sweet green onion, about a half tsp of thyme and minced garlic, some salt and pepper and some milk (I really don't know how much just enough to bring the liquid to the top of the mushrooms and kale.)
It cooked in the crock pot for several hours. I then took most of it out and put it in the food processor. I kept out some of the mushrooms so they could be in the soup in whole pieces. I then put it all back in the pot for just a little longer.
It was pretty good and made a very nice lunch for Michelle and I.

Here are my little heads of broccoli. I picked them yesterday. They look pretty big in this picture but they really aren't-- still dipped in some ranch dressing, they should make a nice snack.
Here are the English muffins and the bread I made today.
The English muffins are for breakfasts, the bread will go with supper tonight of deer meat loaf and homemade mac n' cheese.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Apple Wine Tasting

Today was the tasting of the apple wine. I added some white grape juice to sweeten it with. It needed to be diluted some anyway. I really didn't think this one fermented as long as I thought it should but apparently I was wrong because when I first tasted it- before I added the grape juice- my throat was very warm afterwards. I guess I should use my hydrometer when I make wine but I just never seem to have the time to keep checking the must. I am lucky if I remember to rack it to jugs when it needs to be.  Anyway, it is the loveliest clear color.
As for taste...well...I think it probably tastes like it should but I tend to like red and berry wines so much better. It's not so bad after the first glass though :)
Right now I have fermenting: pink lemonade wine, mixed berry wine, and raspberry apple wine, all made from frozen juice. I am waiting for the cranberries from Christmas to get marked down (amazing how long cranberries last in the stores!) so that I can get some and make some more cranberry wine.

Still Learning-Violin Part 2

Since several people have showed interest in my teaching myself the violin, I thought I would do another post on it.
Learning the violin is not something I am going to do quickly. It will likely take years before I consider myself actually good at it but I have definitely made progress over the last month and a half. I ordered several books that have helped me. Some have been better than others.
I started with a book called You Can Teach Yourself Fiddling. It is a great know all the songs...but I don't. I can play the ones I know but not the ones I don't know. For me, at least, I have to hear the tune first. This quickly taught me that I need to buy books with accompanying CD's. I bought Fiddle Time Joggers and Fiddle Time Runners. The second book is more advanced but I can now play several of the tunes in the first book with the help of the CD.

I traded for a couple of Suzuki books though the Paperback Swap (link on the top left) and I swapped for the CD's through the CD swap (you can find a link to it on the Paperback Swap site). The swaps get rid of books and CD's that you don't need and you get ones that you do. All it costs you is postage..IF someone wants one of your books or CD's.
Two other things I bought were a shoulder rest and a tuner. I bought this shoulder rest mainly because it was cheap but it has worked out just fine. I bought this tuner. Not only was it cheap but it had good reviews. It works great and I have been very happy with it. When I was a child our teacher tuned our violins and there were no "tuners". What a great thing to have now!
The books are great but Youtube has also been a great learning resource. Especially this lady right here. She really helped me remember how to hold the violin properly and how to loosen up when I do plus she has sheets of easy exercises to get you started.

It started out so slow. It would take me days and days and days to just learn one little song. I first had to figure out the notes, then try to get my fingers to hit the right strings at the right time plus trying to get the bow to hit the right strings at the right time. I still am not perfect at either one but things are moving along a bit faster now. I can learn a tune or two in a day (if I have enough time to practice) and then I usually work on it a few more days until I feel like I have it good before moving on to another tune. Each day I practice all of them again and try to get better and better at bowing them smoothly. I try to at least spend an hour a day practicing, sometimes I do more if I have more time but usually by then my fingers are getting tender. They aren't toughened up enough and I think I press down too hard on the strings still.
Anyway, just wanted you all to know that I hadn't given up on it. I am enjoying it immensely.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Leftover Venison Casserole

The other day I took out a piece of the back-strap from that deer my brother brought over and cut it into medallions. I put  it in the crock pot with a jar of mushrooms (liquid and all), some onion, two packets of brown gravy mix and a couple pints of water and let it cook on low all day. When Phil came home he made some mashed potatoes and ate the venison and gravy over the potatoes.
Today, by some miracle, there was some left. I ate some over eggs for breakfast but there was still some left so I used it again for tonight's supper.
I made another casserole. I put the gravy and medallions leftovers in a bowl, added some frozen peas,
I then added some cooked rigatoni pasta (just happens to be the first pasta I saw in the cupboard but pasta is just pasta, any one will do),
added an 8 oz bag of finely shredded cheese (this one happened to be the pizza blend of cheeses),
and put it in a 9 x 13 inch pan, then put another bag of cheese on top.
This is a picture of it before I added the cheese, otherwise you would have just seen cheese. Michelle (or Phil) will put this in the oven for about 20 minutes when Phil and her are ready to eat this evening while I am at work. .

Sausage Patties

Last Saturday I made yogurt and you can see my post on yogurt making here but on Sunday Phil had requested that I make more sausage. Phil likes the second recipe that I posted on this blog post. It is quite spicy.
I had place a nice big pork shoulder in the refrigerator a few days before so it would be thawed and ready. I was determined to remember to take pictures this time and I did....until the battery in the camera died anyway.
Don't let Phil's hands fool you, he was only putting meat in the grinder while I took the picture. I cut it up and ground it and then went to put the spices in and found we were out of brown sugar so I had to make my own by adding molasses to regular sugar.
I made it a bit spicier than it called for because my last batch wasn't spicy enough. Then I just made them up into patties and put 4 patties each in a quart bag.
There was 9 lbs of sausage and it made 25  (rather large) sausage patties. It is a bit spicy this time but Phil thinks it is great.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Garden Shots

Here are some pictures of the garden right now. They are a bit pitiful and weedy as I haven't really had time to mess with the garden lately.
Here are the broccoli plants with their tiny little heads.
Here are a couple of pictures of the cauliflower which is growing great but have no heads yet. I don't think I have ever had them grow so big before.

The cabbage doesn't look nearly as good but it is coming along nicely, I think.

This last picture of the garden is of the bed that had the kale, turnips and garlic. On my first planting,, they sprouted good but only grew on one side of the bed so I have replanted and they have sprouted so that is what you see in this picture. The little bit of garlic I put in is in the back.
I did not take a picture of the bed that had the savoy cabbage in it as it looks like it is going to be a total failure. They just aren't growing.
That's it for the garden. I was going to take some pictures of the tomatoes on the windowsill but the camera batteries died on me before I could.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Lemon Cleaner and Wine

I have been a bit slow in posting lately but work has been getting in the way with trainings lately and it messes with my free time and lately most of my free time is spent practicing my violin which I truly am enjoying.
However, this post is mostly about how the lemon cleaner turned out. Here was how it started with the Meyer lemon peels in a jar filled with white vinegar and water (approximately 1/4 jar of white vinegar the rest water).
It has been sitting there a few weeks and today I got a spray bottle and strained the new (hopefully) lemon cleaner into it. It filled the spray bottle about 3/4 full but it was very strong smelling. It is hard to explain what it smelled like but it is not exactly lemony like the lemon cleaner at the store. It is quite a bit harsher than that. I filled the rest of the bottle with water which toned it down some and it isn't too bad to clean with now.
It did make me think about how much nicer the lemon balm smells though and I think this might be a good use for all that lemon balm. Next time I would like to try putting some lemon balm in a pan and boiling it (which always smells wonderful) and then using that water to pour over the lemon peels. I also am not sure how essential the vinegar is but it likely would be nicer smelling without it.
Other than lemon cleaner making this weekend, I was also wine making again. The lemon cleaner is sitting on the primary that is filled with an apple raspberry wine mixture. Yesterday it had had a mixed berry wine mixture in it. I racked that into jugs with air locks on them and then just put the new juice in on top of the leavings of the mixed berry wine and that way I didn't need to add any more yeast. It started fermenting right away and is doing really well.
I'll try to get in a garden post in this week. I have tiny little broccoli heads. Some year I would love to be able to say that I have "huge" broccoli heads but I guess this...won't be the year.