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Archive for the ‘other thoughts’ Category

uhg!

I am totally unhappy with my unexpected blogging hiatus. I know that all two of you are as well. BUT I am still baking and cooking and taking pictures; building a repository of posts to write up. I will be back soon enough – promise!

HEARTS!

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I’m not all about my birthday; I don’t get sorts of crazy excited – and it’s not because I’m worried about getting old since I already act like a 90 year old woman.  I get more excited about catching a Lady GaGa song playing on the radio. However, I do love going out to eat, and super fancy dinners are a fun way to celebrate (my) birthdays.

Last year I had a completely awesome birthday gift of Heidi’s Chef’s Table with Chef Stewart Woodman; a dinner that lasted at least five glorious hours.

This year I was tossing ideas of La Bell Vie, or Sea Change, perhaps the Grand Cafe?  While these restos are inspiring, I felt like I was missing something bigger.  I saw this list (ЗДОРОВАТЬСЯ Moscow on the Hill) for birthday boys and girls and aside from the Craftsman and Moscow, I was uninspired and was going to call out for help as to where to go for my birthday dinner.  But then David told me that it will be a surprise and to block off not only my birthday, but the night before as well!  I love making decisions and delegating tasks, and dictating the social calendar, but surprises are even better.

Rather than a call out for resto recommendations, I instead ask that you all chip on and purchase this for me, where I will not even display it in my house, but tape it to the inside of one of my cupboards and smile each time I open the door – a gentle reminder of what a nerd I am.

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We are hosting Thanksgiving this year.  I/we have never hosted Thanksgiving before.  After the initial freak-out of “omfgwearehostingThanksgiving” I reminded myself that it will be fine, we had after all, hosted a homemade pizza party for 30 people last fall.  Because of this, my fear lied in the fact that it is Thanksgiving, a holiday rich in tradition, but not the company nor number of guests.  Eight people, the number we are hosting, is nothing to be concerned about since as usual, I will prepare too much food.  However, I WAS concerned about the turkey.  I called the Birchwood Cafe to see if I could still order a bird from Wild Acres and they put me on a wait list.  But what was I supposed to do until I find out if I get one or not!?  I took to the Minnesota Grown website, hosted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, typed in my area code and the product I was interested in (poultry, natch).  I was lucky enough to stumble upon the family owned and run farm of HighView Pastures and with a $10 deposit I was able to secure a locally raised, free-range turkey.

I made that call last Monday and got to pick up our bird today in Farmington.  It is rare when I leave the 554XX or even 551XX zip codes, so to make the drive to the country is a bit of a haul for me.  But I was excited! – In the country, by myself, blaring lady GaGa, and despite driving behind really slow UPS trucks, I knew that this turkey farm was going to be fabu – and it was.

This isn’t the mailbox to the farm.  This is a mailbox a few farms away.  I missed it and had to turn around.

However, THIS is the front-yard of the farm and those oblong white guys…err ladies are TURKEYS.  There were turkey hens running around as well as a few Tom Turkeys.

Roaming all around were not just turkey hens and Tom Turkeys, but chickens and geese as well!  They didn’t care that I, a human, at three times their height, was roaming around their territory.  Nor did they seem to care that I drove a large car called a Corolla that could easily squish them.  They just wandered about “cluck, cluck, clucking” away and “gob, gob gobbling” as they walked.  They seemed so at peace.  I wonder if they were curious as to where half of their friends went?  Their other turkey friends who just disappeared yesterday and never came back?  Do birds have the mental capacity to think such thoughts?

Here is one of their brothers…or sisters.  Plucked, decapitated, and vacuum sealed.  The she-farmer thankfully gave me a bag to carry Turkey in.  I would have felt like an inconsiderate slob waltzing amongst the poultry outside, displaying their dead friend like some sick freak.

On the bright side of eating meat – this is where it’s at.  The bird was raised on a lovely farm, able to walk around freely, and had food made available to it as they wished.  Lastly the farmers, unlike Evil Poultry Corporation, did not inject their turkeys with saline thus making them appear and feel more plump and ultimately deceiving the customer.  Better yet, our turkey was ALIVE until just yesterday.  Up until yesterday, I’m sure it lived a happy life, or as happy a life turkeys expect to live.

In following the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for an old-fashioned stuffed turkey (apologies if you can’t view it as you may need to login), I separated the skin from the meat on the breasts, legs, and back with my gloved hand, though I did not remove the skin.  After separating it, I rubbed the meat with Kosher salt and wrapped the bird back up in plastic wrap since it should be salted and wrapped tightly for 24-48 hours.  In essence, I violated the bird, with salt, then mummified it and finished the job by putting it back in the cold, dark refrigerator.

There s/he is!  Alive yesterday.  Dead today.  In my refrigerator until Thursday.

The farm trip was delightful for a variety of reasons and I’m so glad that we were able to get such a happy turkey for Thanksgiving – something to be truly thankful for.

______

HighView Pasture sells s many other products such as eggs, pork, and beef.  Seriously, check them out!

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A few weeks ago, The Heavy Table had a post looking for new blogs they could feature on their site.  Immediately I sent the link to Tracy to encourage her to submit HER blog.  She did so at the right time because she was the 50th person to do so, meaning she won tickets to The Affair for that weekend.  Because I am lucky, nice, or Tracy just couldn’t find someone to go with, she invited ME!  And I went, even though I agree with some of the points Kitchen Bitch made about their advertising sensibilities (I’m more against infidelity but it made me question whether the promoters hired a group of teenagers or an advertising firm?  The obvious imagery is an insult that even Pete Campbell wouldn’t hurl at us).

I’m not going to write-up on the event, but rather just tell you the Who’s Who of The Affair.

First, we went to a chai making demonstration hosed by Om restaurateur, and author of 660 Curries as well as Betty Crocker’s Indian Home CookingRaghavan Iyer.  I learned a lot about making chai and have considered even giving it a whirl at home someday.  What was most surprising to me was that he authored that Betty Crocker book, the same mysterious book that is on our book shelf in the kitchen which I recently moved elsewhere because I thought, “Betty Crocker don’t know jack about Indian home cooking!  Hmpf!”  When I got home after The Affair, I made mention of the demo to David who also started talking about the book.  More interestingly, Iyer hosted a cooking class/demo at their house (I think?) for his sister, AND he got the book signed.  I then made it a point to page through it and make something from it that week, which I did – more on that later…

BUT on our way to a cheese and chocolate demo (which tasted very “blah.”  I want my cheese to taste like something and that something is not bland Velveeta – Heeeeyoooo!), out of the corner of my eye, I caught a fire engine red dress.  The woman wearing it was short, shorter than me (and I’m short).  ZOMG!  It was Marjorie Johnson – Minnesota’s best known home baker (right?)!  You may remember me writing about her here, here and here.  Then again, you may not remember that, so…you’re welcome.  I haven’t followed her career, but a friend gave me her fabulous book, Blue Ribbon Baking a couple of years ago, and I’ve caught her on Leno a few times.  Her methods are tried and true, she’s short like me and she’s so adorably sweet.  I know she was there to sell and sign book but was kind enough to let me get my picture taken with her on my phone.

(I don’t normally look like a dude)

This couldn’t be topped, so shortly thereafter we left The Affair.

Thanks for The Affair, Heavy Table!

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Lady Gaga’s video for her single Bad Romance premiered today.  Of it, she explains:

“There’s this one shot in the video where I get kidnapped by supermodels.
I’m washing away my sins and they shove vodka down my throat to drug
me up before they sell me off to the Russian mafia.”

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On the dawn of the anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, David and I invited friends over for dinner as we hosted a Russian themed meal.  It has been a plan in my head since coming home from a visit to St. Petersburg this summer.  The plan taking place on the weekend before the anniversary of the fall of communism was merely a coincidence.  Despite as much, we started the night off in the only appropriate manner: drinking the last of our Russian Standard Vodka purchased in the motherland.

Most people only know about three things about Russia:

  1. Russians drink a. lot. of. vodka.
  2. Communism and its father Karl Marx
  3. Vladimir Putin’s pecs.

Despite my strange interest in all three areas, I will only answer to the first point.

Russians do drink a lot of vodka.  When you go to a decent restaurant, you will be served, without ordering, a shot of vodka and you are expected to drink it right away whether it is lunch or dinnertime.  If you are out to eat with a group of people, you will order a bottle of vodka for the table and everyone (who wants to) is given a shot glass to partake in the bottle.  It actually isn’t that difficult to go through an entire bottle in one sitting.

I needn’t explain the plusses of drinking vodka at lunch or dinner.  Instead, I will merely point out the other main reason why Russians drink so much vodka.  They live in RUSSIA.  Do you even realize how far north people live in this country and how cold it can get?   We weren’t even 60 degrees north of the equator while in St. Petersburg, it was summer and it was kind of chilly.  Think of the people who live 9 degrees further north and even further north than that – how else are they going to stay warm?

Lastly, vodka is the national drink and literally means “little water.”  However, it was not until 1893 when Dmitri Mendeleev (who you may remember from such places as the Periodic Table of Elements and Mendelevium) researched the properties of the spirit to determine that the optimum alcohol content for drinking should be 38% (it was later pushed to 40% for taxation purposes) and was written in to law.  A little more than a decade later, Mendeleev was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the Periodic Table of Elements.  Because of grudges and arguments conducted by a certain committee member, Mendeleev was not awarded the honor despite two nominations. To get back on point: Russians take their national drink seriously.

With that, it should come as no surprise then that the Russian vodka we drank was beyond exceptional.  It was impeccably pure and no matter how much I drank, I did not once encounter even a glimpse of a hangover.  The vodka we drank was just as good to take shots of as much as it was to sip.   Because of this, it was most unfortunate that the bottle of Duty Free Zarskaya vodka was confiscated in Germany.  :::Sigh:::

Since this visit, I have come to realize that we can and should own shot glasses and should not fear seeming like a Frat House.  Shot glasses do not make a frat house; light up beer signs do.

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Going between measurements, or increasing/decreasing recipes can involve a lot of math.  That is, unless you know off the top of your head how many ounces are in a cup, or how many teaspoons are in a pint and so forth.  Here is a chart to help you get to the bottom of any conversion.  It is easy to remember but I keep it on a scrap of paper on the refrigerator for quick reference when I can’t be bothered to use my memory.

Good Quality Pastry Chefs Offer Tasty treats

(Gallon, Quart, Pint, Cup, Ounce, Tablespoon, teaspoon)

G

4        Q

8        2       P

16      4       2     C

128    32     16    8     O

256    64      32   16    2   T

768    192    96    48   6    3   t

How to read the chart

There are 16 Ounces in a Pint.
There are 48 teaspoons in a Cup.
There are 64 Tablespoons in a Quart.

and so on…

Happy converting!

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