Monday, December 22, 2014

Spicy Sweet Potato Oven Fries

   I tried another recipe from my newest cookbook, "Recipes from the Root Cellar".  I found this fairly easy recipe on page 180. You simply peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/4 inch thick sticks.  The seasoning mixture is combined with the oil and the sliced sweet potato slices are then coated with the seasoning mix. The seasoned slices are then baked in the oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. The ingredients are as follows:

4 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup sunflower or canola oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cinnamon ( I used allspice in my first attempt)
My newest cookbook

    The instructions warned that if too many sweet potato sticks were cooked at a time, they would steam and wouldn't brown properly.  There was also a warning that if too few were cooked at a time the sweet potato sticks would burn. I only pass along the warning. I experienced no problems with the cookie sheet only half full.  I didn't have four medium sweet potatoes available at the time so I only cut up one good sized sweet potato. The results were well received by those who got to try them. They disappeared pretty quickly.  I think this method of cooking sweet potatoes would work out well with any number of seasoning variations.  Personally, I'd like to try a tablespoon or two of pumpkin pie seasoning and sugar to see how that turns out.
The finished product

   The day after I made these my daughter, Sarah, gave me a new cookbook entitled "The Cornbread Book".  That means "Recipes from the Root Cellar" is no longer my newest cookbook.  I have a serious affection for cornbread and I love the new cookbook. It is relatively small as cookbooks go. It has an interesting section about the history of cornbread which I particularly enjoyed, followed by about 90 pages of cornbread recipes. I've not included a photo of the new cookbook because it just has a plain yellow cover. I found the yellow cover to be very appropriate. Along with the new cookbook, Sarah also gave me a new baking pan. It is a heavy ceramic muffin pan with the muffins in the shape of little bee skeps, also a very appropriate yellow color.

   I made cornbread for our family dinner on Sunday. I used my favorite cornbread recipe, modified from the Fanny Farmer cookbook.  I used some of my stash of Ruby Gold Indian Corn, a variety I grew two years ago. I ground the corn within the hour of baking the cornbread and was very happy with the results. As I perused the new cookbook I found that the recipe I use is very similar to the first recipe in my new cookbook, called sweet cornbread. Of course neither recipe called for the use of freshly ground indian corn, which makes all the difference in the world.

    While I have a theme going on yellow things, I want to include the following photo I took at the shop a few weeks ago. I was anxiously engaged in rendering beeswax and remelting the rendered wax so I could pour it into one pound molds. I do this by putting the previously rendered beeswax back through my water jacketed wax melter. The remelted beeswax flows out of the wax melter into a five gallon bucket.  I then dip out the melted wax to fill the molds.  Usually I put two or three inches of very hot water into the bottom of the bucket first.  This helps keep the beeswax liquid longer and results in a somewhat flat bottom on the big cake of beeswax when I remove it from the bucket after it cools. The water in the bottom also makes it much easier to get the wax back out of the bucket as it isn't adhered to the bottom of the bucket.  Once I used water which was merely warm and wasn't as hot as that which I normally use. This resulted in the interesting abstract art piece shown in the photo below. I'm open to suggestions for a title, Wouldn't this make a wonderful 1,000 piece circular puzzle?

I can see a face

Friday, December 5, 2014

Family History Friday, #13 - James T. Dunlap's Military Service

     There is a reference in James T. Dunlap's Civil War service record to his prior service in the Mexican War.  I managed to find him listed in an index of Mexican War soldiers which indicated he had served in Company D of the Fourth Regiment of Illinois Infantry. The index listed his rank as both private and a sergeant. I then did an internet search to find out exactly what the 4th Illinois Infantry did during the Mexican War. I was fortunate to find a digital version of an old book with a very long title, "Record of the Services of Illinois Soldiers in the Black Hawk War 1831-32 and the Mexican War 1846-48".  This book provided a complete list of men who served in all four regiments raised in Illinois during the Mexican War. It also provided information regarding the engagements in which the regiments participated. The book further indicated that a large portion of the army was recruited from the western states because men living on the frontier had a greater familiarity with firearms and it was much easier to transport them to Mexico down the Mississippi River.

   As it turns out, James T. Dunlap had enlisted in the Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry on June 9, 1846. He served in Company D of that regiment under Captain Achilles Morris.  The Fourth Regiment was joined together with the Third Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry to form a brigade.  James T. Dunlap traveled with his regiment as far as Matamoros, Mexico. He fell ill there and was left behind on December 17, 1846 while the Fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry marched down to Tampico, Mexico. On March 9, 1847 the regiment took part in the landing at Vera Cruz and played an important role in the subsequent battle of Cerro Gordo.  Captain Roberts of Company A was the first man to place his foot on enemy soil in the landing at Vera Cruz. In a letter dated February 5, 1882, Second Lieutenant W. A. Tinney, of Company G of the Fourth Illinois Volunteers stated "We stormed their fort and put the enemy to flight, taking about six thousand prisoners, and we captured General Santa Anna's carriage, also his wooden leg, which I have in my possession."

    It appears that James T Dunlap missed all of the action in the Mexican War due to illness. Approximately ten percent of the U. S. expeditionary force died from disease while only one percent died from battle. The difficulties of moving, feeding, and providing adequate sanitation for a large body of men in the 1840s led to serious problems with disease.  His company of ninety-two men suffered a total of ten deaths. One man was killed by Mexicans on April 17, 1847 and one died by accident on April 16, 1847. The remaining eight deaths were from disease in October, November, and December, 1846.  The surviving members of Company D were discharged at New Orleans, Louisiana on May 26, 1847.

     Looking at all of the wars in which the United States has fought, the Mexican War was probably the least justifiable.  It was mainly a grab for land. The United States wanted to buy land from Mexico which the Mexican government didn't want to sell. The main result of the Mexican War was to force the Mexican government to recognize the annexation of Texas as part of the United States and the forced sale of California, Arizona, and New Mexico to the United States. Abraham Lincoln, serving as a Representative from Illinois, opposed the Mexican War. The war was fairly popular in spite of its relatively weak justification. Lincoln's opposition to the war didn't help his political fortunes at the time and led to his decision not to seek re-election to congress.  I discussed the Mexican War with a good friend who served a mission in Mexico and whose father had immigrated from Mexico. He acknowledged that there was poor justification for the Mexican War but expressed the wish that the United States had simply taken over the entire country of Mexico.  He felt the Mexican people would have been much better off as it would have saved them from the long string of despotic and corrupt governments.

     During the Civil War James T. Dunlap first joined the Union Army as a Captain in the 23rd Regiment of Missouri Volunteer Infantry.  During the Civil War State governments often raised militia units which were then mustered into federal service.  The governor appointed the commander of the regiment, then each individual company would elect their own officers. This James T. Dunlpa was elected to be a Captain in the 23rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry while he was later elected to be a First Lieutenant in the 44th Missouri Volunteer Infantry.

     Captain Dunlap fought at the Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing where he was wounded and captured.  The 23rd Missouri arrived at Pittsburgh Landing by steamboat on morning of April 6, 1862, with the battle having started at daybreak. They were quickly marched to reinforce the Sixth Division of the Army of the Tennessee, under the command of Brigadier General B. M. Prentiss.  The 23rd Missouri was initially assigned a position on the left flank of the Sixth Division.  General Prentiss had been commanded to hold his position at all cost. The Sixth Division fought a defensive rear guard action as the rest of the Union forces retreated.  They delayed the advance of the Confederate Forces which allowed Major General Ulysses Grant to establish a new line of defense.  The area defended by the Sixth Division was named the "Hornet's Nest" because the fighting was so fierce. At some point the Confederate forces surrounded the Sixth Division and brought a significant amount of artillery to bear on their position. General Prentiss was then obliged to surrender his forces.  More than 2,000 Union soldiers were captured, many of them wounded. Captain Dunlap then spent seven months in a confederate prison camp. The fact that he survived both a wound and seven month in a prisoner of war camp is pretty amazing.

     Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River was the strategic position the Union army was defending.  The primary means of moving men quickly during the Civil War was by either rail or steamboat. The name Shiloh comes from a Hebrew word meaning "Place of Peace" and was the name of a church located somewhere on the battlefield. It is very ironic that one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War should bear the name "Shiloh".  The Confederate General, Albert Sidney Johnston sought to destroy Grant's Army of the Tennessee before Grant could receive reinforcement from General Buell's Army of the Ohio. The Confederate Army attempted a surprise attack on the morning of April 6, 1862. Although the confederates forced the Union Army back from their original positions, they failed to capture Pittsburgh Landing and destroy Grant's army.  The reinforcements Buell's army began to arrive during the battle and Grant was able to mount a successful counterattack the following day. The Battle of Shiloh was the bloodiest battle in the history of the United States up to that time with over 23,000 deaths. Even though it was a Union victory, General Grant was severely criticized due to the heavy losses they suffered.

     After James T. Dunlap's release from the Confederate prison, he served a term in the Missouri State Legislature. He then rejoined the Union Army on September 4, 1864, as a First Lieutenant in the 44th Regiment of Missouri Volunteer Infantry.  He was wounded at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864 and died of his wounds on December 11, 1864. In the Battle of Franklin the 44th Missouri Volunteer Infantry was assigned to the center of the Union army's defensive position. They successfully repulsed numerous Confederate attacks, but suffered severe casualties. Another ancestor, James Wesley Tunnell, Sr., also served in the 44th Missouri and was also wounded in the Battle of Franklin.

      General Hood's Confederate forces were attempting to recapture Nashville, a significant manufacturing center for the South. The Confederate forces suffered such severe losses in the Battle of Franklin and the ensuing Battle of Nashville that they were forced to retreat south and were no longer able to mount any effective campaign. These were the last two major battles in the western theater of the Civil War.

    James T Dunlap's military record includes a letter of recommendation that he be  commissioned as a Colonel in the 44th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. The letter was written by an officer with whom he had served in the 23rd Missouri Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac V Prato, and is dated August 1, 1864. The letter mentions that James T Dunlap had prior military experience from the Mexican War.  The letter also mentions his having fought at the Battle of Shiloh and being a prisoner of war for seven months.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happiness is a New Cookbook

     On my recent trip to the Portland area I picked up a new cookbook, "Recipes from the Root Cellar",  by Andrea Chesman.  The primary reason I was attracted to this book was that it has more than 30 winter squash recipes. We currently have a very good supply of winter squash, in spite of the number of squashes I have given to friends and family. My goal is that none of them will go to waste.  I thought I might be able to sell Linda on eating more squash if I can find a few more recipes that she likes.  Up to now, as far as Linda is concerned, I've been a one trick pony when it comes to squash. She really likes a squash soup that I make, but hasn't liked much else in the way of winter squash. I guess that I should say two trick pony as she does like pumpkin pie, regardless of what sort of funny shaped "pumpkin" I use to make it.
One recipe down, a few hundred to go. 

    My first attempt from the new cookbook was something called Whipped Winter Squash on page 197.  The recipe called for one large winter squash, but their suggested varieties included butternut, buttercup, and red kuri, none of which are large squashes in my book.  I would consider a blue hubbard and larger to be large squashes. So I used what I consider to be one medium size Oregon Sweet Meat squash.  The squash is split, seeds removed, and baked in the oven for 60 to 90 minutes until it is done.  The cooked squash is separated from its skin. Then add 4-6 tablespoons of butter, 4-6 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey, and 3-4 tablespoons of either whole milk, half and half, or light cream. This mixture is then beaten with a mixer and salt and pepper are added to taste.  I was very happy with the results. Linda liked it too, but I think I probably ate most of it. That puts me up to three squash recipes that Linda likes.  The next recipe I planned to try was Winter Squash with Caramelized Apples.  I think a girl like Linda who loves caramel apples is bound to like that one.

    A good friend dropped by the Beez Neez yesterday and left me a nice bag of beets.  The squash recipe will have to wait until after I make borscht.  This led me to discover a flaw in my new cook book. Their borscht recipe did not include cabbage in the ingredients.  I think I will stick to the borscht recipes in my two Russian cookbooks, all of which include cabbage. I did find a recipe for Harvard Beets in the new cook book which I am going to try.

  I made a very simple borscht using the following ingredients:

1. One chopped onion, sauteed in butter.
2. About two pounds of beets, boiled for about 40 minutes, skins removed and cut into fairly small pieces. I saved the liquid in which the beets were cooked to add to the borscht as it makes a big contribution both in color and flavor. Normally I cut the beets into thinner pieces than seen in the bowl of borscht below, but I sliced up the beets after I had sliced my thumb so I was a little less thorough.
3. One quart of chicken stock
4. 1/2 head of cabbage, shredded.
5. Salt and Pepper to taste.
6. One dollop of sour cream added to each bowl of borscht as it is served.

     Normally I would also use garlic, but I cut my thumb doing the onions and was not in the mood to slice anything else it it wasn't absolutely necessary. I even enlisted Linda to shred the cabbage for me.  It turned out very well so it didn't seem to miss the garlic.  Linda and I both found it to be delicious.
I love the wonderful color of borscht

Friday, November 14, 2014

Preparing the Garden for Winter

     I'm in the process of putting my garden to bed for the winter. First I cover it with cardboard, then add about six inches of leaves and loose straw.  I prefer to use leaves as much as possible, but straw also works very well. The Beez Neez generates a great deal of cardboard. Using it to mulch the vegetable garden is a great way to recycle it. I got a really good deal on straw from a friend at church.  I used some some of the straw as bedding for the goats, the chickens and the ducks. However, most of the straw will end up as mulch in the garden.  I top off the mulch some time during the winter or early spring with a layer of well composted horse manure.  I get the manure from a friend with a horse farm. They have an air injected compost system that results in well finished compost that is practically weed free. By the time I plant in the spring, all of the cardboard has disintegrated, the worms have moved the organic matter all around. The soil in the garden beds is soft and fluffy without the need for a rototiller. Best of all, there are very few weeds.  There is some labor involved in spreading the cardboard, leaves, straw, and compost.  The nice thing about it is that I can spread out the labor through the fall and winter. It doesn't have to be done all at once and there is less that has to be done in the spring.

   This method of garden preparation is called sheet composting. I read about it in a permaculture book and started using it about three or four years ago. I have been amazed by the results. Previously I had prepared garden beds in the spring with a rototiller.  Since I don't own a rototiller I had to make arrangements for a rental or to pay someone else to do it. Since we generally have wet spring weather, the ground can't be worked with a rototiller until it is getting pretty close to planting time for many crops. This meant I often was planting my garden later than would have been optimum. Using a rototiller also resulted in very weedy gardens, especially for a new garden area. The rototiller breaks up all of the grass roots into many pieces, many of which survive the rototilling process and grow back with a vengeance. It seemed like I could never get ahead of the weeds.

    I read a very interesting book a few years back, called "The One Straw Revolution". It was written by a Japanese man who was a college trained agronomist.  He was troubled by some of the things he observed in modern agriculture and began experimenting with traditional Japanese agricultural methods on their small family farm.  He was able to produce higher yields of rice using traditional methods than his neighbors produced with the expensive use of tractors, chemical fertilizers, etc.  I need to read the book again as I don't remember many of the details. I seem to recall that the primary way he maintained the fertility of the soil involved mulching with straw, hence the book title.

    I have decided to plant a larger corn patch next year.  I'm anxious to try out a new variety of indian corn called Mandan Red Clay.  It is used to make parched corn. You heat it in a pan and it pops, but not quite like popcorn. Its like something in between popcorn and corn nuts. Linda bought a variety pack of various healthy snack foods from some mail order place. Included in the variety pack was a package of parched corn.  It was really quite tasty. Linda and I both liked it.  Then I noticed that one of my favorite seed companies, Uprising Seeds (located in Bellingham, WA), now carried a variety of indian corn specifically designed for parching. It is also a short season variety so it should do well in spite of our cooler Western Washington summers.

     A larger corn patch means I will also have more room for the winter squash to spread.  This year I had planted my squash on one side of the corn patch and the squash spread completely through the corn and traveled 15 feet out of the corn on the opposite side.  I grew two varieties, Oregon Sweet Meat and Red Kuri.  The Oregon Sweat Meat I started from seed. I bought the Red Kuri as plants from a local nursery. The Oregon Sweet Meat did alright, but I only got a total of five squash from four plants.  I harvested a total of 17 squash from my four Red Kuri plants.  It is entirely possible that the Red Kuri did better simply because of the head start.  The Oregon Sweet Meat produces larger squash, but I don't really consider that to be a benefit.  I'd rather have more of the smaller squashes. The smaller size of the Red Kuri is much more convenient for most people. Both varieties are in the Maxima group of squashes that includes Hubbards, and they both are good keepers. They won't interbreed with squash from the other three squash groups which makes it much easier to save seed. As long as I only grow one maxima variety they should set true seed. I don't have to worry about them crossbreeding with my zucchini.  I have decided to plant the Red Kuri next year because they are a convenient size, very productive, and are good keepers,  They are also very pretty and the harvested squash look quite decorative on the front deck.

Red Kuri and Oregon Sweet Meat winter squash
    As part of my garden preparation I took down my bean poles and removed all of the vines from them. While I was at it I collected the mature pods that had escaped harvest when I was canning green beans.  The pole beans become such a jungle that it is impossible to harvest all of the beans for canning. Many pods manage to hide and grow to maturity.  I picked the mature pods in order to save seed for the following season.  I've grown Blue Lake pole beans for the past few years. I don't know that it is the best pole bean available, but it is an open pollinated variety so I can save the seeds.  I planted eight hills of pole beans, about four or five plants to each hill. It only takes about six bean pods to give me enough seed for next year's garden.  I canned seventy-two pints of green beans from those eight hills of beans.



Monday, November 10, 2014

On Vacation in Portland

    I took the train down to Portland this past week to spend some time with family there. The train tuned out to be an adventure in itself. The train hit a deer somewhere between Kelso and Vancouver. The deer got its revenge by taking out an air hose and attached fittings which made both the train's brakes and the restrooms nonfunctional.  Since the fitting were damaged as they were ripped loose, there was no easy fix.  Personally, I am very much in favor of not trying to move a train with no brakes. I'm reminded of several songs about trains without brakes, such as "The Wreck of the Old Ninety-Seven". Those songs never have a happy ending for either the train or its passengers. We sat there on the tracks for about 4 hours until the next southbound Amtrak train came by. They then transferred all of the passengers to that train, after which we had a relatively short ride into Vancouver and Portland.  The train was still a great deal in that as an official senior citizen my ticket only cost $28.90. I would have packed more snacks if I had known the trip was going to take 8 and half hours rather than the scheduled 4 hours.

    Some of the highlights of the Portland trip included the following:

1) A visit to Powell's in Portland (one of my favorite bookstores) with my daughter Rachel and her children. A happy time hanging out with fellow book nerds.
I found this treasure at Powell's to add to my Italian Harry Potter collection

2) Not one, but two lunches at Ochoa's mexican restaurant with the Kangs, featuring their wonderful carne asada tacos,  beef tongue tacos and orzata.
Chilling at Ochoa's with the Kangs

3) Two days of serious family history work with Sarah and Chloe Kang. This included the addition of six new stories to family search pertaining to great grand parents Enos Henry Sinor and Lillie Etta Heiskill.

4)  A serious craft day with Rachel and her friend Heidi preparing nautically themed centerpieces for the upcoming Farmington Elementary Dinner and Auction. This included teaching Rachel how to whip the ends of a rope so they don't unravel. I almost felt like a scoutmaster again, although I only had to teach Rachel once.  Your average eleven year old boy needs to be taught a skill like that five or six times for it to stick.

5) Watching Elise and Hannah Kang play in their final 2014 soccer games. (Sadly, they both lost) It is a lot more fun to watch them win than to watch the games which build character.

6) Two evenings of fine dining with the Arnett's on Chet's wonderful homemade Chile and Jambalaya.

7) A fun afternoon teaching Chloe Kang and her younger sisters how to make pies. We made a pecan pie for the family and an apple pie which was owed to one of their friends.
Chloe Kang with her first apple pie
Chloe's personal touch in decorating the pie crust
Southern Honey Pecan Pie

8)  A fun Friday evening jam session playing with Chet and his friends. Other than the drums, I was the only one without an amplifier attached to his instrument. I was actually pretty happy about that as it allowed me to jam away quietly as I practiced some unfamiliar chords.

9)  Sharing elephant ears with the Arnetts at the Portland Saturday Market. My favorite booth at the market was a fellow who made long bows from a variety of interesting woods, including Osage Orange and Hickory.    

     On Saturday afternoon I met up with Linda at the Marriott Hotel near the Oregon Conference Center. She had driven down with grand daughters Hannah Yaden and Madelynn Veatch to attend the LDS Time Out for Women and Time Out for Girls events with Sarah and her three older girls.  I drove home with Linda and the girls, making much better time than the trip down on the train. I have to give a special thank you to my good friend Quentin who did a return engagement at the Beez Neez, allowing me the luxury of being sick for a few days, then to enjoy a week long vacation with loved ones in Portland.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Enjoying the Evergreen State Fair with Grandkids

    This past August I spent a fun Saturday afternoon at the Evergreen State Fair with the Veatch family. So many things at the fair are just a lot more fun when shared with grandkids.  The Veatch family seems to prefer starting their fair experience with the rides, my least favorite part of the fair.  However, it was fun watching the interaction between grand children as they attempted to persuade one another to go on one ride or another. Some are clearly more adventurous while others are of a more cautious nature. Its always more fun to go an a ride with someone, but the kids' preferences in rides varied wildly. Madelynn is a serious thrill seeker who is game for about any of the scarier rides. Abby wanted very much to ride the ferris wheel while Madelynn was uninterested in such a tame ride. There were serious negotiations taking place. I finally broke down and paid to ride the ferris wheel with Abby so she would have some company on the ride. I think that is the first time I have ever been on one of the rides at the Evergreen State Fair in the ten years or more I've been attending the fair.

Grand daughter Abby  enjoying the Ferris Wheel

Grand daughter Madelynn waiting patiently below

     I watched Conner and Natalie go on a few of the kiddie rides as we enjoyed some fair scones with raspberry jam. Other than the scones, I didn't indulge in the other fair food offerings.  I'd had about six recent visits to the fair to get most of my desire for fair food out of my system.
Grandson Conner on the Carousel 

    We took a brief trip through the beef cattle barn and saw an absolutely huge Hereferd bull. I've always thought Hereferds are the prettiest breed of beef cattle. My good friend Quentin has a strong preference for Angus cattle over Hereferds as he found them to be much hardier in Wyoming's rather harsh climate. I would guess Hereferds are better adapted to milder climates than Wyoming.  A bit earlier I had passed by the bull as his owner was sitting there caressing the bull's head and scratching behind his ears. He seemed to be a pretty gentle beast for being so large. On the other hand I noticed that he still had a ring in his nose.

    The kids particularly enjoyed the rabbit barn and watching the dogs go through an obstacle course. I think 4H is a wonderful program. I wish more of my grand kids were able to participate in it. Ultimately we found ourselves watching the Aztec Indian dancers. who put on quite a show. When they reached the "audience participation" portion of their show it was no surprise that several of the adventurous Veatches were willing participants. However, I was surprised that Conner so willingly accepted the invitation from the big scary Aztec dancer and walked out into the dance area holding his hand.
Conner on the dance floor

Mike and Tina getting in touch with their inner Aztecs

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nixtamalization or Making Hominy

    I've watched a number of You Tube videos over the past week on the process of nixtamalization or in other words, the making of hominy.  This is a process of treating corn with lime water or wood ashes, used by the Aztecs and North American Indians to make their corn more nutritious.  Corn has a significant amount of niacin, but not in a form that humans can digest.  The process of nixtamalization converts the niacin to a more digestible form, thus making it a more nutritious staple.  When Columbus came to the New World, he took corn back to Europe with him. However, he didn't take nixtamalization with him. Because corn is more productive than many other grains, the poorer classes of people made corn a significant part of their diet. After a while they began to suffer from malnutrition in the form of Pelagra, a disease caused by a niacin deficient diet.  I'm not sure how the indians stumbled on the process of nixtamalization or came to understand its value. Maybe they just thought it made the corn taste better. Corn eaten with beans is also more nutritious as the beans have lots of niacin and make up for the corn's lack.
One Quart of Dry Dent Corn
    I started with a quart jar of dry dent corn. I added this to a half gallon of water, then stirred in a table spoon of calcium oxide dissolved in a cup of water.  It is very important to use a non reactive pot like stainless, enameled.  If this were to be done using an aluminum pot it would end very badly. I brought the water to boil and then let the corn boil for 20 minutes.  When I turned the heat off, the corn had swollen significantly and already smelled like corn nuts.  After soaking in the lime water for 24 hours, I rinsed the corn until the water was clean and rubbed the skins or pericarp off the corn kernels. Lime water, being caustic, isn't particularly good for your skin.  It is very important to rinse the hominy well before handling it and it wouldn't hurt to wear rubber gloves.  Once the skins have been removed, the hominy is finished.
Cooked and Limed, Ready for a 24 Hour Soak

     In Mexican cuisine hominy is used whole in soups like Pozole or ground using a meat grinder to make the masa harina used in tamales or tortillas.  Ground hominy can also be cooked to make grits.  In one You Tube video I watched the hominy was deep fat fried to make corn nuts.  One cup of hominy  went into Linda's taco soup. I liked the flavor very much, but they needed to be cooked a bit longer than the other ingredients. They were tasty but a little chewy. We made the rest into corn nuts.  I deep fat fried one batch. The major difficulty with that was the lack of the proper tool to retrieve the corn nuts from the hot oil when they were done. As a consequence, the removal process took longer than it should have and some of the corn nuts were a bit over done.  Linda tried baking some instead. They turned out very tasty, but a tad harder than the ones I fried.  We're going to try doing some in the popcorn popper next time. Now all we need to do is experiment a bit with seasonings.

The finished hominy, rinsed, rubbed and drained
Home made corn nuts

   I don't know about our Missouri and Iowa ancestors, but I know the ones from Arkansas made and ate hominy.  My mother remembers burning her mouth trying to eat an unfinished piece of hominy when she was a little kid living in Arkansas.  She didn't recall any details as to the process her mother used. Her parents and grandparents didn't grind the hominy to make grits. They fried the hominy in butter instead and served it as a vegetable.  Indians in North America used wood ashes to make hominy. Wood ashes mixed with water will produce Potassium Hydroxide rather than Calcium Hydroxide.  I watched several videos where wood ashes were used to make the hominy. Mom doesn't remember what her mother used to make hominy. She just remembers getting a blister on her lip trying to eat a piece of hominy before it was rinsed. As mom remembers it, our Arkansas ancestors mainly ground their corn for corn bread, corn meal mush, and to feed their animals. Her grandpa occasionally loaded corn into a wagon and took it somewhere to be ground. The person who ground the corn kept a portion of the corn meal as payment.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ukalele Lady

      When Linda and I drove down to Salt Lake City to attend General Conference we used my truck. It wasn't very good for gas milage but it was a much more comfortable ride than our little car.  A week or so after we got back from our little road trip, Linda decided my truck needed a little decoration.  She came down to see me at the bee store with several grand daughters in tow.  When I got into my truck several hours later to go home I found she had made a little decorative addition.

Ukalele Lady

Monday, October 20, 2014

Arbor Press

    So just what is an arbor press and what is it good for?  A year ago I had never even heard of this device, but I am glad that I now own one.   I picked this up in a trade with a friend who is a sheet metal worker. I wouldn't have realized its value, but for the advice of my friend and former employee, Quentin. We have used it at the Beez Neez Apiary Supply primarily for modifying and repairing honey extractors. We use it to press gears on to or off of the crank shaft.
Arbor Press
     The arbor press has a steering wheel handle no the left side. This provides smaller increases in pressure. It has a second handle on the right side which provides a great deal of leverage. There is a bar which inserts into the lever handle. Both handles cause the heavy metal bar to move, putting an incredible amount of pressure on whatever item you chose to put the squeeze on. I used this device the other day to remove a serious dimple from my favorite aluminum baking sheet.  I use this baking sheet for so many different tasks. I use it for everything from roasting hazel nuts to baking biscuits. It had been in the back of our car and someone had accidentally closed the back hatch onto the baking sheet. It left a very large unsightly dimple. It was still useable, but the dimple really bugged me.

Before photo of my favorite aluminum baking sheet

    I could have simply taken a hammer to the dimple, but I'm not sure it would have been much of an improvement. I've not had good luck making things truly flat by beating on them with a hammer. They usually end up a bit lumpy and uneven. Then it occurred to me that I had the perfect tool to repair my baking sheet. I took it down the the bee store and put it into the arbor press.  An incredible amount of pressure, evenly applied, resulted in a nice flat surface where the dimple used to be. The spot is still visible as a discolored area. However, its now very flat and even such that I don't have to work around it any more. There is nothing quite like having the perfect tool for a particular job.

After photo of the same baking sheet

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Garden Summary for 2014

      I would consider this year's vegetable garden a big success. Due to time pressure in the spring (a very busy time at the bee store) I didn't get everything planted that I would have liked to have done.  However, most of what I planted did well. Let's all give a big cheer for global warming and the warmest summer we have experienced since moving to Snohomish County in 1993.   The tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, Jerusalem Artichokes, corn, and winter squash all did very well. We also had a great year for fruit.  I canned over 72 pints of green beans, several dozen pints of salsa, 19 quarts of apple sauce, 15 gallons of grape juice, and made a half gallon of raisins. I had more I needed to can than I had time to can, a sign of a very productive garden. I was very grateful that the corn and winter squash didn't require any immediate processing.
This represents about half of the 2014 winter squash harvest
     My squash crop consisted of the following, 17 red Kuri (the reddish squash in the photo), 5 Oregon Sweet Meat (the greenish blue squash on the left). I've got about twenty of the smooth pumpkin like squash on the left. That is over forty squash so I suspect we are pretty good on that portion of our years supply. I don't know what the pale  pumpkins will be like to cook as they all came from the same volunteer plant that grew amid the Reid's Yellow Dent corn in the garden area next to my bee yard.  I suspect they came from the composted horse manure I added to that area of the garden. I was amazed that one plant could produce that many pumpkins. I'm going to cook one today to see if the pumpkins are worth storing to eat, or if they should all be turned into jack o' lanterns.  If they don't make the culinary grade I will donate them all to the Trunk or Treat activity coming up at church right before Halloween.  So far, Red  Kuri has worked best for our climate of all the various types of winter squash I've grown.  I'm planning to just grow that one variety of winter squash next year and start saving seeds.

     On the list of things I didn't plant this year are garlic, carrots, cabbage, dry beans, peas, and potatoes. So many vegetables and so little time.  The problem with the garlic is that it needs to be planted in the fall, so if I don't get it done soon I won't have garlic next year, either  I've had a few learning experiences this year as well. I put clear plastic over the newly corn in order to warm the soil and help the corn to germinate better. The problem was that I left it on for two weeks and the young plants were overheated.  The portion of my corn patch which had been uncovered actually did better than the covered and I had to replant a portion of the patch. Next year if I use a clear plastic cover to help germinate the corn, I will only do it for about a week.  I also learned that onion sets do much better if they are planted very early (like late January or early February.  I planted some red onions at that time and they grew much better than they had in the past. Along with that I learned the necessity of pruning off the flowers just as they start to form causing the plants to grow larger bulbs.

     Reid's Yellow Dent corn is spectacular in that the stalks will grow 12 feet tall even in our "corn un-friendly" climate. It definitely isn't an appropriate choice for our climate as it still hasn't started to dry down and thus isn't ready to pick. If any of the seeds manage to dry down, I will be happy to give some to anyone who lives in a warmer climate than ours who would like to grow some monster corn.  The Painted Mountain flour corn has finished drying and is ready for me to shell with my new Fulton corn sheller. The sheller is new to be but is probably at least 100 years old. I've even pulled the corn stalks up in the front garden area.  Next year I plan to grow either Floriani Red Flint corn (perfect for polenta) or Mandan Red Clay corn for parching.

    So no sauerkraut making this year. That is ok as we still have some canned sauerkraut left over from two years ago.   I'm not sure when I would have had the time to make it anyway.  I was pleased with our efforts two years ago to store fresh sauerkraut in the fridge.  We purchased a few of those old fashioned canning jars with a glass lid, rubber gasket, and metal bail. They had a nice selection at IKEA.  That worked very well.  The sauerkraut lasted close to a year before Linda cooked it up with some sausages. The only downside is the limited storage space in our refrigerator. A friend told me about a way to make sauerkraut with little or no salt by fermenting it anaerobically using a gas escape like they do when making wine or mead. I look forward to trying that as my major objection to consuming lots of sauerkraut is the fact that its so darn salty.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hunting Trip to Misery Junction

    I had an enjoyable weekend deer hunting with my younger brother, Mike, two of his sons, Gavin and Aaron, and Gavin's son Michael.  We went to a new location with the most colorful place names. We camped near Misery Junction, not far to the north from Mount Horrible.  To get there we had to pass "Hard to Get To" and the turnoff to the Devil's Tail Bone.  In spite of all of the negativity with the names, it was actually a fairly lovely location with wonderful vistas.  I suspect the names originated with people who had to traverse that area with wagons or had to make their own roads.  Misery Junction is the site of an old depression era Civilian Conservation Corps work camp. They shipped about 200 young men from New York off to the wilds of southeastern Washington State in order for them to build roads for the U.S. Forest Service. Maybe the negative place names stemmed from homesick city boys doing hard labor in the wilderness.

Gavin driving in our fruitless search for a legal target

   We found a nice campsite, sheltered from the wind about a quarter mile south of Misery Junction, the site of the depression era CCC Camp. My brother has a nice 12x14 wall tent which makes for comfortable camping. Its nice to have a tent with lots of head room.  The weather was fairly nice, other than a bit of rain on Saturday.  We've used a sheepherder stove to warm the tent when elk hunting, but it wasn't necessary for this trip.  We ate well and enjoyed each other's company.  I fixed my favorite sour dough pancakes one morning and made biscuits one evening.  We ate the traditional stroganoff and chili (not at the same time) and Gavin brought some steaks.  Everything went pretty well with the exception of the fact that we never saw much of anything legal to shoot.  The terrain in this vicinity is pretty steep which severely limited appropriate places to hunt.  If a deer isn't located in a place from which it is practical to retrieve the carcass there is no point to shooting it.  This was the first time we had hunted in this location, about 25 miles south of Pomeroy, in far southeastern Washington State.  While I had a very enjoyable trip, I will definitely chose a different location next year.  Most of the terrain was simply too steep. The photo below was taken as we were driving north towards Pomeroy and the terrain was becoming less vertical.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Road Trip with Linda

     We just got home from a trip to Salt Lake to attend General Conference.  Linda has been before but  it was my first time. I always watch all of the sessions, some live and some after the fact on the internet.  I've just never made the trip to Salt Lake to see it in person.  It was much easier for me to do this in October than it would have been in April (a very busy month at the bee store). We had lovely weather on the drive down. We left Friday morning as I left the store in Ben Goodwin's hands.  He is a very trustworthy young man and has worked at the bee store long enough that he can handle most of the questions.   There is still something a little unsettling about leaving your business in the hands of a teenager, even a very trustworthy one.

    We both enjoyed driving through the mountains and the farmland. While driving through the Yakima Valley and Southern Idaho I couldn't help but notice just how much land was planted in corn.  I don't know if there is more corn now than there used to be or if I just notice it more.  I suspect there actually is more corn now, possibly a consequence of the push for biodiesel.   Neither Linda or I were inclined to drive straight through to Salt Lake.   We stopped in Boise on Friday evening, then drove the rest of the way on Saturday.  We arrived at our motel in Salt Lake at about three in the afternoon, just in time for Linda to get to Deseret Book to buy her traditional bag of assorted bulk candy before the afternoon session of conference let out. We then had dinner with Melanie Ward and watched the Priesthood Session at her house.

     We stayed at the Econo Lodge, located just seven blocks west of Temple Square. We used Salt Lake's light rail system a few times and found it fairly convenient. The only significant downside we experienced with the public transportation was the very strange guy sitting across from us on our final trip.  He looked like he was trying to sleep but was waking from a very bad dream several times a minute.  His eyes were closed the whole time but he kept yelling out the occasional obscenity and waving his arms. I was very glad he stayed on the train when we got off.  I'm not really sure how he would have known when to get off. I guess I would like public transportation better if it were a little less public.
The view of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from the Balcony

     We had tickets to the Sunday morning session. Since the Tabernacle Choir broadcast takes place just before the morning session we were supposed to be in our seats by 9:00 am.  I was nervous about being late so we ended up in our seats at 8:30 am.  As we were getting ready to walk to the light rail stop Sunday morning, we found out that the motel provided a courtesy van to drive people to conference. I had planned on a half hour to get to the conference center (waiting for a train, etc) and instead it only took five minutes.  The down side to getting there that early was sitting for three and a half hours. The up side was getting to watch the Tabernacle Choir rehearse for an entire hour before their performance began.  They are so amazing. Such a large choir and yet you can understand every word.  They truly do sing with one voice. It was lovely to be there.  I enjoyed the actual conference as well, but found myself watching the big screens rather than the actual speaker. Its such a big building and the speakers are so far away.  They all looked so very small from our view point in the balcony section. It was easier to watch the big screen where you could see the expression on their faces as they spoke.  My favorite part of watching conference in person was getting to sit next to Linda and sharing the experience with her.
VooDoo Donuts in Portland has a growing fan base

    We walked around Temple Square after the morning session ended. It had changed quite a bit since the last time I was there.  I saw two things that reminded me of my daughter Rachel.  I saw one of the sister missionaries on Temple Square wearing a pair of Doc Martin boots (definitely Rachel's sense of style).  Then Linda and I came upon some visitors from the Portland area who had brought down a box of VooDoo Donuts for their between session snack. The girl in the middle in the photo is enjoying a bacon maple bar.

    There is a nice park area and a reflecting pool where the street used to be between Temple Square and the Hotel Utah.  We went to the Joseph Smith Building (formerly the Hotel Utah) to watch the Sunday afternoon session.  That is a pretty comfortable place to watch the conference. There was no need to be there so early and there was obviously less of a crowd to negotiate at the end of the session.  By the time the afternoon session ended, Linda was running on fumes.  We took the train back to the motel and hit the trail for home.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tuesday Night Ukulele Class

   I managed to make it to my Tuesday evening ukulele class this week.  Its always one of the highlights of my week. Now that the Live Aloha festival is over they are back into their regular routine, although with a few less participants. At least one of the regulars has gone to Hawaii for the winter.  That sounds a lot more fun than the usual snowbird migration to Arizona. Part of the time we spend working on a few new songs and part of the time we go around the circle and play whatever songs anyone wants to play.  So far my choices have been the old cousin camp standards like Pearly Shells or Pupu Hinu Hinu. It is a lot of fun to play Pearly Shells with people who can really belt out the Hawaiian lyrics. However, it will always be more fun to play and sing it with my grandkids.  I will just have to teach some of them how to sing it in Hawaiian. I've learned a few other songs I'd like to teach them as well, such as E Huli and Aloha Hawaii.

   The canning is winding down a bit.  I've done more than 50 pints of green beans and I'm up to 7 and  a half gallons of grape juice so far. The pole beans were very productive this year.  The squirrels started raiding my little patch of Painted Mountain flour corn in the front yard and I was forced to pull up all of the stalks and harvest the corn a little early.  I husked all of the corn and took it down to the bee store to let it finish drying there. I made a little "corn crib" which I have strategically placed in front of the heat vent.  It should be fully dried within a few weeks and ready for shelling.  The squirrels apparently haven't discovered the other corn patch yet so I will let that dry down in place until they do.

   The removal of the corn stalks allowed me to do a more accurate count of my winter squash. I have five Oregon Sweet Meat, sixteen Red Kuri, and about twenty of some kind of volunteer pumpkins that came up in my Reid's Yellow Dent  corn.  The twenty pumpkins are all from one plant. They are about the same color as a butternut squash with a smooth pumpkin shape. I'm hoping they have a nice  fine textured flesh. If they turn out to be stringy I will donate them to be carved into jack o lanterns at the Trunk or Treat activity. Usually smaller pumpkins aren't stringy so I'm hoping these will be useful for pies and such. I think I grew enough winter squash this year that we could have easily lived off them throughout the winter. The plan is to give a lot of them away, but we do intend to eat more winter squash this year.  I've found at least one squash soup recipe which Linda really likes and she loves pumpkin pie.  I just need to expand my repertoire of squash recipes a bit. Linda is not into plain old baked squash so I will need to exercise some creativity in the kitchen if we are going to make much of a dent in our supply of winter squash.
Red Kuri above and volunteer pumpkins below

Oregon Sweet Meat

     Ian, one of my bee store friends, saw my little corn crib at the store. As it turns out, he is also seriously into indian corn and suggested a few more varieties to try.   Ian was raving about a variety called Floriani Red Flint. As it turns out, it is now carried by Uprising Seeds (located in Bellingham, Washington), the same place where I bought the seed for the Painted Mountain flour corn I grew this year. I'm anxious to try Floriani as it is grown specifically for polenta. This is an heirloom variety from the Sugana Valley of the Italian Alps so it will probably work well in our maritime climate.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Canning Marathon

    Linda has been away visiting grandchildren in Oregon for the past week.  I had to stay home and mind the bee store and take care of other obligations.  I've been taking advantage of Linda's absence to try to satisfy my urges to can.  Those urges seem strongest in the late summer and early fall as I see so much produce from the garden that I can't stand to see wasted.  The main things I'm working on at the moment are green beans, grapes and tomatoes.

      I've been canning a batch of green beans about every three days for the past two weeks. I think I'm up to about three dozen pints so far.  They're not really all that difficult. I usually prepare them while watching TV. The actually canning requires some attention to keep the pressure canner at the right temperature, but green beans in pint jars only require twenty minutes at ten pounds. That is a piece of cake compared to canning meat or fish. Most vegetables I prefer to eat fresh, but I like the green beans better canned.  Last year I tried my hand at pickling green beans. I liked them, but Linda didn't seem to care for them.  I take the pickled beans to work occasionally for lunch. This year I'm back to canning green beans.

    We've given away a lot of tomatoes this summer but their production is reaching a climax. Now I have way too many to foist onto unsuspecting friends.  Last year I made ketchup in order to use up the big bulge in production that happens at the end of the season.  I was happy with how it turned out, but I ended up with about a three year supply.  This year I decided to try my hand at making salsa. We generally go through a lot more salsa than we do ketchup.  We have a Norpro Saucemaster which made quick work turning twenty pounds of tomatoes into six quarts of tomato juice and pulp. I didn't have to blanche and peel the tomatoes. I just had to core them and cut them into small enough pieces so they would fit into the hole at the bottom of the hopper. I turned the crank and watched the skins come out the end of the machine while the juice and pulp flowed into the pan.
A year's supply of salsa

    The grapes on the other hand,  are very easy.  I use a steamer juicer to process the grapes. Its about the easiest canning task I do every year.  I have four varieties of grapes represented in my eight grape vines.  I usually get close to ten gallons of grape juice from them.  That ten gallons actually represents about twenty gallons of juice to drink as it is way too strong to drink it just as it comes from the juicer.  I dilute it with an equal amount of water and then add a bit of sugar to get the taste right.  I think my favorite part of canning grape juice is the wonderful aroma that permeates the house.
Canadice Grapes ready for the steamer juicer
Transparent grape juice fresh from the steamer juicer
The same jar of grape juice an hour later

    Many years ago when I was taking French in high school, I was told that studying French would be useful some day. That day finally came.  I needed to add some elevation to the quart jars I was filling with grape juice. As you can see in the photo below my Larousse French Dictionary filled the bill nicely.  I'm actually still working on learning French. Its partly to atone for the only D grade I ever got in junior high or high school. Now I'm using several different apps on my iPhone.  I figured that I'm up to a 1,000 word vocabulary but that doesn't get me very far when I try to read something in French.
A thick French dictionary put to good use

The steamer juicer works its magic
     Another canning project involved a gift of crap apples from Terry Johnson.  He had brought some pickled crab apples by the bee store for me to try. I thought they were wonderful, so he then gave me a bag of crab apples so I could make my own.  He dictated the recipe while I hastily scrawled it onto a yellow sticky note.  I've provided it below for any crab apple lovers who might read this.

                                  Pickled Crab Apples

Brine Ingredients:
    3 cups vinegar
    3 cups water
    6 cups sugar
    1 1/2 tablespoon whole allspice
    1 1/2 tablespoon  cloves
    2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces

Combine the vinegar, water, and sugar in a pan with the spices added in a spice bag.  Boil the brine for five minutes then reduce to a simmer.  While this is happening, pierce each crab apple through with a long needle, then add the crabapples in batches to the simmering brine just long enough for them to become tender. Leave the stems on the crab apples. Let the brine cool. Then add the tenderized crab apples back to the brine and allow them to soak overnight. The following day, remove the crab apples from the brine and put them into pint jars. Bring the brine to a boil and pour it over the crab apples leaving a quarter inch head space.  I then processed them in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. This recipe made seven pints. I didn't measure out the quantity of crab apples that were in the bag Terry gave me. However, it was just the right amount to do seven pints of pickled crab apples.
Mr. Johnson's Pickled Crab Apples

Monday, September 22, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Hazelnut Crumble Crust and Family History

    One of my church responsibilities that I enjoy the most is overseeing our ward's youth family history consultants.  I see that responsibility as mainly motivational.  The youth have been very quick to pick up on both the use of the family search website and indexing. The plan is to meet with them about once a month, have some brief training/motivational message, let them discuss what they have been doing lately and encourage them set some goals. I want to avoid micromanaging them. We've been counseled to challenge them and then get out of their way and let them do it.  In order to help them look forward to a once a month meeting I've offered to sweeten the deal with homemade pie. The youth all seemed pretty enthused about the pie. So far so good.

    This month's offering, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with a Hazelnut Crumble Crust, was specifically requested by Julia Proffit. Personally, I am somewhat of a purist where rhubarb pie is concerned. I prefer my rhubarb pie straight up, undiluted by extraneous ingredients such as strawberries.  However, this particular recipe uses three cups of rhubarb to just one cup of strawberries.  Due to the predominance of the rhubarb it could be described more accurately as Rhubarb Strawberry Pie. The taste of the rhubarb is still pretty strong and the strawberries do improve the color of the pie filling.  The particular variety of rhubarb I grow is mostly green with very little red color. I would rather add strawberries than add food coloring.  Our local hardware store was selling rhubarb plants this past spring which were very red. I'm thinking I should consider adding that variety to my rhubarb collection next year.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Hazelnut Crumble Crust

      I found this particular strawberry rhubarb pie recipe on line at Simply Recipes.  The recipe is as follows:

3 cups chopped rhubarb stalks
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and sliced.  (I used frozen strawberries from our freezer.)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt  (I omitted the salt)
In addition to the above ingredients I added a tablespoon of flour to the filling to make sure the pie set up properly. It's nice to be able to serve up a pie that holds together when you slice it and try to put it on someone's plate.

    The hazelnut crumble crust is my own recipe. I simply combine 1 cup of flour with one cup of brown sugar and a quarter cup of butter. After it is all mixed together I had a half cup of chopped hazelnuts. I used my favorite pie crust recipe I got several years ago from Emeril LaGasse's website.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Salmon Fishing with Friends

    I went salmon fishing in the sound this past Wednesday.  I was invited by some good bee store friends, Jim and Dorothy Dushane.  The day started out somewhat gray but was beautiful and sunny by mid morning.  The silvers haven't yet arrived in Puget Sound in full force.  We managed to catch only one by 11 am.   However, the best part of the day was the company.  I enjoyed getting to know my friends better, how they met, etc. I was especially pleased to learn that Jim had retired from the Seattle Police Department.  Up to this point in our friendship we had mostly discussed honey bees.  Our previous careers somehow hadn't made it into the conversation.  Even though the fish weren't biting I had a lovely morning listening to Jim's war stories.

Jim and Dorothy Dushane

     The highlight of the trip wasn't the one salmon we caught but rather the ritual of cleaning that one fish at the marina.  There are five harbor seals that are full time residents of the marina in Everett. When the salmon are in the sound the seals greet the returning boats and line up at the cleaning station for their share of the catch.  I felt for a few minutes like I was at Sea World as the seals stood at attention in front of the cleaning station, barking at Jim to hurry him along.

Not in the least shy seals wait to be fed

This seal was swimming so close to the dock such that it was hard to get a photo.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Live Aloha

     The big day finally came.  Linda and I rushed home from church, changed clothes,  and drove down to the Seattle Center.  We arrived with just 45 minutes to spare. Amazingly we found a parking place in the parking garage right across the street from the Seattle Center. I guess it wasn't really so amazing considering that it cost $15.00 to park there. By the time we had parked and hurried over to the location of the concert we walked right into the column of ukulele players lined up waiting to enter.  I found my group easily enough and had time to stand in line with my brother and sister ukulele players for about 25 minutes before they started to herd us into the concert area. Meanwhile, Linda found a good place in the audience so she could take some video.  I was unable to include the video in the blog post due to technical difficulties. I will try again with the video on Facebook.
The Live Aloha Stage

The Live Aloha Stage was located right
 in front of the Space Needle

     I was very concerned about the fact that I had not managed to memorize all of the words and chords for some of the songs.  However, I was very fortunate to end up standing next to a woman who had the foresight to bring a small music stand.  It is so much more fun to play and sing when I know the song by heart and I'm not tied to the music.  Memorizing the words is more of a daunting task when singing in a foreign language and the words are more or less nonsense syllables.  We played a total of five songs, three in Hawaiian and two in English. Alu Like, Haole Hula, Ka Na'I Aupuni, There's No Place Like Hawaii, and E Huli.  I enjoyed the last song the most. Partly because because I had memorized both words and chords, and partly because there were about a dozen people doing the hula right in front of us.

I'm the guy with the gray hair in the second row on the right
      I did a bit of an encore performance two days later. I was asked to bring my ukulele to a Relief Society function. They were having an Hawaiian cultural evening which featured Hawaiian food, some dancing, a game, and a short presentation about the history of the LDS church in Hawaii. I played a few songs while they ate and filled in between some of the activities. I even got a few sisters to sing along with me on two songs that were in English.  Towards the end I explained about the song Hawaii Aloha which Hawaiians sing at the end of almost every gathering, including sessions of the Hawaii State Legislature. The song expresses their love for the place of their birth.  We sing it at the end of every ukulele class. Its like the closing hymn. Its traditional that everybody holds hands while they sing it (unless you're playing an ukulele). Having experienced the emotion the Hawaiians have attached to this song I get a bit emotional myself when I listen to it or sing it. I guess I'm becoming somewhat of a Wannabe Hawaiian.  I love their kind gentle spirit. Its hard for me to imagine how Captain Cook managed to get himself killed on his visit to Hawaii.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pesto alla Genovese

     I have a serious love for Italian cuisine. My first introduction to serious Italian food came when I was 19 years old and served a two year mission in Northern Italy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Consequently, I developed a love for most things Italian, but especially the food.

     This past spring I was shopping for vegetable starts to fill in for a few of the things I had failed to start in a timely fashion.  As I was picking out zucchini and cucumber plants I noticed they had some really healthy looking basil starts.  I had tried to grow basil in the past from seed and it never seemed to prosper due to our less than warm and dry spring weather we get on the wet side of the Cascades,  On a whim (due mainly to my affection for Italian cuisine) I decided to buy a few basil plants.  I bought one green variety and one purple basil plant. My expectations for their success was fairly low, but due to our warmer than usual summer they both did very well.  So here I was with two big healthy basil plants that I didn't want to go to waste. Pesto alla Genovese seemed to be the obvious solution.  I was first exposed to pesto while a missionary in Italy and it was literally love at first bite.

     I am fortunate to have two very good and very large Italian cookbooks. One is written in English and is titled "The Silver Spoon". I found it on sale at Costco as I was browsing through their books.  The other one is written in Italian and is titled "Il Talismano di Felicita", or the Talisman of Happiness. I found this particular treasure at a local used book store for just $9.00. Both books had pesto recipes that were pretty similar. I looked at a few pesto recipes on the internet as well. The only variations of any consequence involved the exact ratio of pine nuts to olive oil and what variety of grating cheese they used. One recipe used a mixture of Parmeson and Pecorino while others used just Pecorino.  The methods used to measure the amount of basil leaves also tended to be a bit ambiguous. The pesto recipe in "The Silver Spoon"considered garlic to be optional.  Personally, I can't imagine making pesto without garlic.  The recipe from "The Talisman of Happiness" was virtually the same as one I printed from the internet except that the directions were more complex.  I decided to save myself the trouble of translating the recipe from Italian and to make it easier on anyone who wants to try their hand at pesto. Therefore I chose to pass on the recipe I found on the internet, courtesy of the Food Network Kitchen. It listed the recipe level as easy and the preparation time as five minutes.  It really is very easy to make, takes very little time, and regardless of the exact ratio of ingredients or specific variety of grating cheese used, it will turn out wonderful the first time you make it.

     I should offer one word of warning. Be prepared for some sticker shock when you go to buy pine nuts.  At our local Fred Myer pine nuts were $40.00 per pound in the bulk bins.  Fortunately, the recipe didn't require very much. I bought 4 ounces of pine nuts and that was enough to make four one cup batches of pesto. That is one cup of pesto prior to the addition of the pecorino cheese.  Since it is so very strongly flavored, a little pesto goes a long way. One cup of pesto plus the cheese is more than enough to flavor pasta for six people. Pesto can be made in larger batches as I did, then frozen in smaller containers that are suitable for one meal. It will only keep for a few days in the fridge, but can be frozen for three months.

     The recipe for Pesto alla Genovese is as follows:

  2 cups of packed basil leaves
  2 cloves garlic
  1/4 cup pine nuts
  2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

  Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with  salt and pepper.
   If using immediately, add all of the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.
   If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle the remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in the cheese.