Saturday, March 27, 2010

Benefits of A Rainy Winter

It was a very rainy winter. One week in February this year, we got almost 12 inches of rain. My favorite running route is still closed off because of standing water. Our old house has leaked in two different places. The floor just inside the back door was constantly muddy. The creek was way up and the dog was bored.
But as you can see from the above photo (from our local NBC website, we are currently enjoying the benefits of all that water. We've never seen such flowers - from the bulbs and blossoms in our own yard to the wildflowers in abundance on the hills. I have at this very moment 22 tulips and 10 irises in various vases around the house. Amazing!!
All of this means: it's gardening season!! Planted so far: onions, artichokes. We will keep you posted.....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Feast

It started out several years ago, when the first day of the NCAA basketball tourney coincided with Saint Patrick's Day. Since our whole staff team (of 5) was going to be at my house watching the games anyway, I thought I'd just make some corned beef and cabbage for dinner. When else could we eat such a thing? The next year, I added colcannon, a potato dish, and an apple crisp for dessert. Later on, I decided it would also be fun to try to speak in an Irish brogue for the whole day. Which brings us to this year's St Patty's Day feast at our for a crowd of 24 (our staff, interns, our kids, and 'significant others'). Menu: Brown bread, Irish cheddar, pickles, corned beef and cabbage with mustard-cream sauce, Irish stew, colcannon, and Irish cream cheesecake for dessert. Here's how my Tuesday (the 16th) and Wednesday (17th) went.....
Tuesday, March 16 - 6 a.m.: set out 48-oz brick of cream cheese to soften, dig giant crab-cooking pot and spring-form pan out of cellar.
6:05 - wash dust and cobwebs off of pot and pan
9 a.m. - prepare first two loaves of Irish brown bread for baking
10:30 - prepare next two loaves for baking, consider eating half of a loaf for lunch but resist
noon - boil 25 potatoes, cook chopped kale and onion for colcannon
12:30 - shove baking dish full of colcannon into fridge (rearranging things to find space)
1p.m. - begin making first of two Irish cream cheesecakes, which require the aforementioned brick of cream cheese, the spring-form pan, and three stages (crust, filling, topping) of mixing and baking. Quickly realize why I haven't made this cheesecake in 14 years (Christmas of '96!). Consider putting some Bailey's Irish Cream in my iced coffee, but chicken out, since I have to pick up 5 kids from school in two hours. Also, I don't really drink Bailey's Irish Cream...
10 p.m. - get last cheesecake out of oven, cool, cover, cram into over-crowded fridge
Wednesday, March 17 - 5:30 a.m.: get bag of produce out of cellar where it was being stored since there was no more room in fridge; secretly rejoice that there are no signs of mice getting into it
6 a.m.- chop 3 onions; cook with 3 lb beef for Irish Guiness stew; begin stew in crock pot
9-11 a.m. - clean house, shower, find green T-shirt and earrings, listen to Chieftans station on Pandora
11 a.m. - chop turnips, carrots, parsnips; add to stew
1 p.m. - start simmering 3 corned beef roasts in giant crab pot on stove
4 p.m. - add cabbage to corned beef, put colcannon in oven, get drinks ready in big tub, get dishes and silverware out (including awesome festive napkins I bought last year after St Pat's Day)
5 p.m. - enjoy the party, the music by the Chieftans, watching Kevin and Jenn's red-haired daughter Abby run around my yard chasing chickens, and trying to master an Irish brogue. Give large helpings of cheesecake to the people who drove my kids home from their youth groups so we didn't have to leave the party
9 p.m. - 10:30 - do most of the clean up (Jamey helped. A LOT), take out several bags of garbage, start dishwasher, store leftovers, eat one last piece of cheesecake, consider making cheesecake more often
Thursday at 4 p.m. - put away last of the dishes, clean sink with bleach because Irish food seems greasy, enjoy a delicious piece of cheesecake with kids, collapse on couch to watch some basketball games, start thinking about next year's feast!

I have been asked why I do this? Why don't I make it a potluck? Truly, I have no idea, except that I like doing it once a year (twice....I also do a staff Christmas dinner). If this is still a conundrum for you, read a short story called "Babette's Feast" by Isak Dinesen (it was made into a movie years ago. In Danish. I actually made Jamey watch it once). It's about a French woman who washes up on a Scandinavian shore after a shipwreck and is cared for by the townspeople. Then she wins the lottery and uses the money to make them all a grand French feast in appreciation. All of the money. They, being stoic, strict Puritan-types, don't get it. I don't really, either, except that I really love feeding the people I like a good meal. Once or twice a year. Or four times, if you count the annual Super Bowl Party and Memorial Day Barbecue, too....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green Eggs....and Chicken

Oh, the dilemma: we were all mentally prepared to place an ad offering "seven retired non-laying hens, free" on Craig's List, since we hadn't seen an egg since about July (I had to start buying them at the grocery store again....unacceptable!). We had toyed with the idea of butchering them ourselves (messy, gross, and I'm not going to pluck the things) but were warned that old chickens are way too tough to cook any other way except 'boiling the dickens out of them', as one of my neighbors suggested. Then, just when we were ready to go online and type up the add, I found the above beautiful greeny-blue egg in the box. I have found several since then. Actually, someone has been laying enough for our family (8 or so per week) so we are granting the girls a temporary stay of execution.
I guess this means I will not yet be getting a miniature cow or donkey that I've had my eye on....