Winter Doldrums…

WELL!! It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an update on here and the primary reason for that is… well… nothing has been really happening. Seriously… I could tell you all about the minutia of my daily life. Getting up, having breakfast, going to work, having dinner, going to bed… but it’s boring enough at times living it, let alone trying to make it sound interesting to you guys… but the reality is, both Shannon and I have been working like crazy and nursing Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3 back to health as they’ve all been sick with colds and obnoxious.

… keeping our sanity of late has been tricky.

With the MLK Jr. holiday today, I had a day off, and a chance to sit down and put together an update.

The past few days weather have been unseasonably cold for Oregon in the winter. We’re on what feels like our 12th consecutive day of below freezing temperatures and freezing fog and It’s been hovering between 28 and 32 degrees for almost a fortnight, with a periodic increase to 37 or 38 degrees, but even those days are few and far between. In the decade or so that I’ve been in Oregon, this seems like the coldest its been for an extended period of time – at least that I can remember.

I know some of you will read this and chuckle to yourself, because in your world, winter is 0 degrees and below. Turns out in Oregon, we’re not much different than Southern California sometimes when it comes to whining about cold weather. Just see the recent Jimmy Kimmel video about Southern California’s weather issues for an example… (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6t-EjrtD3U) That’s what it sometimes feels like in Oregon… We get a dusting of snow and our whole world shuts down (as a teacher, don’t get me wrong – I’m not necessarily complaining… but it is humerous nonetheless)

Growing up in Spokane, this kind of weather was fairly standard, with much of the winter spent significantly colder, and I don’t remember what we did there during the winter. I lean in the direction of nothing… which is about what we’ve gotten done here in the last week. I’m definitely excited for things to warm up a bit so we can get back at the outdoor projects, and get to checking some things off. The chicken house is pretty well stalled out at this point, and the yard can wait – the ground is frozen solid; the lager is well… lagering in secondary. (actually, if we want to get technical, it’s in the midst of its diacetyl rest before lagering) I bottled some wine yesterday that we had made from some Concord Grapes we got from a friend, and I’m in the process of brewing a Stout today. Well.. I will be as soon as finish this and figure out the mechanics of the protein rest, I’ll be starting that this afternoon.

Shannon has been experimenting a bit in the kitchen, and we’ve had some successes, and a couple of “wait and see’s” that are worth sharing.

First, a huge success. Colcannon.. perhaps you’ve heard of this before, perhaps you haven’t, but this recipe was obtained from Mother Earth Living, and is unreal. It also happens to be another really good way to eat kale.

I had never heard of this stuff, but it turns out Colcannon is a traditional Scots-Irish dish that consists of primarily potatoes and greens like Kale all mashed together. It’s a fairly simple dish, (tasty enough to inspire a song) and its typically made during the autumn and winter when the Kale was harvested. It is nourishing as well as filling, but most importantly, with the sweet potatoes, leeks and orange zest – this particular version is absolutely delectable.

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Sweet Potato Colcannon

Ingredients:

-3 very large or 4 medium Sweet Potatoes
-2 Medium Leeks
-1 Bunch Kale
-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
-Zest of 1/2 Orange
-1 or 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
-2 Tablespoons sweet cream butter

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water. Peel Sweet Potatoes if desired. Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Set Aside. Trim bottom 1/4 inch and top 2 inches from leeks. Slice each in half lengthwise and soak in a bowl of water, swishing to remove sand and grit. Repeat with clean water if leaks are gritty. Dry leeks, then cop into 1/4 inch half-moons. Rise greens, shake to dry and tear each leaf from thickest part of stem (discard stems). Gather leaves, roll like a cigar and chop roughly.

Place sweet potatoes in boiling water, and boil for about 15 minutes. Place olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add leeks and stir regularly for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften. Add greens and continue to stir until wilted, no more than 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Cut largest potato chunk in half. If center is hard, cook for another 2-3 minutes. When soft to center, drain and return to pot. Add orange zest, salt, pepper and butter. Mash with a handheld potato masher or large fork until you reach desired texture.

Add greens and leeks, stir and adjust seasonings to taste. This can be made a day ahead and heated in a covered casserole dish.

Secondly, a “Wait and See”.

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We’ve been reading a lot about lacto-fermentation, so we thought we’d give it a shot. We started simple, at least I think we did. We started with some cabbage in an attempt to make some sauerkraut, and the jury is still out on it. We’re not super familiar with lacto-fermentation, but it doesn’t taste like sauerkraut to me. It’s really salty, and I’m not sure that we’re fans of the caraway seeds. So for those of you who have done more lacto-fermentation than us… is this normal? Should it be all sauerkraut-y? Or more wilted and salty? We’re going to let it sit a bit longer in the fridge fermenting to see if that makes the difference since we tried it pretty early, but suggestions are greatly appreciated.

With that, I’m going to wrap it up. I have some beer to make. Hope you’re all finding more to do on the home front than we are – soon the weather will warm and we can take care of the projects – until then… we plan and get ready for when it finally does.

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