28 November 2007

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving, as always, was full of good food, family and fun. This year's Thanksgiving was centered in Seattle, at the new home of Corinne's cousin Taryn. Tor and Clare, whom we haven't seen since last Christmas, were also in town, along with frequent visitor and fellow Tulsan Loren. All the usual locals (Leif, Donna, Joie, Pete, Reidar, Carol, Jeremie) were there as well.

Corinne must still be riding on the tail of our pie party, because she made 3 different cranberry-based desserts: Cranberry Cream Pie, Rustic Cranberry and Raisin Tarts, and Cranberry Streusel Bars. All were delicious, of course (but the cream pie could have set up more than it did.)

A number of new Thanksgiving items this year qualify for potential Thanksgiving Traditions:

Multi-purpose stuffing. Corinne and I were responsible for making the stuffing this year (actually dressing, because stuffing is evil). After we got past the annual "your dressing versus my dressing" debate - which she won, yet again - we set about to prepare the dish. Since there could have been as many as 18 people for Thanksgiving dinner, we made 3 pans of dressing. The twelve people we did have for dinner only managed to eat 1/2 of one pan, leaving us looking for ways to use the abundance of leftover dressing. Oyster casserole is always a family tradition, but was absent from this year's event. Two problems, one solution: one batch of oysters + one pan of stuffing == the best oyster casserole ever.

Two turkeys. There's nothing worse than finishing Thanksgiving dinner with no leftover turkey. Two turkeys, plenty of leftovers.

Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash. Corinne discovered this recipe in the November issue of Fine Cooking, and it really hit the spot. We prepared a Saturday brunch in which this hash played a starring role. Possible candidate for my "Best Recipes of 2007" list.

Wreath Making. Why buy a wreath when we have a perfectly good forest full of boughs? Before we left for Seattle, we pruned several feet off the bottom of a few of our grand fir, trimmed off the dead branches, and packed them into the back of the car. A girls shopping trip to the craft store plus a few hours of assembly resulted in some beautiful homemade wreathes.

Black Friday. The ladies ventured out shopping on Black Friday and discovered that it's not nearly as crazy as its reputation. Given no particular agendas or goals for the outing, it was quite fun and we found some stellar deals.

Green Bean Casserole from scratch. The old holiday standby, with no canned food involved. Tastes even better the day after.

Beano. 'Nuff said.

Of course we made time for the already established traditions as well: disc (aka frisbee), Super Smash Brothers, and tech support. No family visit is complete without that.

- Mike (& Corinne)

19 November 2007

First Snow Arrives

It's been raining here for the last week. (Yes, I know, stereotypical Northwest weather.)

For a few weeks now we've had a list of some outdoor, end-of-the-season projects that we wanted to finish before winter arrived: mulch and protect the newly planted garlic; final cleaning of the irrigation system and the orchard; collect kindling for winter; final mow of the lawn; etc. We tried to wait for a "nice" day to work outside, but by Sunday morning we realized we weren't going to get one. So we trudged out into the rain and began raking leaves.

Within about a half-hour, the rain turned to snow; within an hour the snow started to accumulate on the ground. Just a few hours later, it looked like winter! I guess we aren't going to get any more herbs from our herb barrel, and it's probably time to pull out the last onion and carrots from the garden.

In the end we got 2+ inches of snow. With any luck, we'll have snow on the ground from now until April!

- Mike (& Corinne)

17 November 2007

They Must Feel At Home

When the deer aren't stealing from the garden or trampling the flowers, we actually enjoy having them around. I guess they feel pretty comfortable here. Today they napped in the driveway and next to the blueberry bushes.

- Corinne (& Mike)

12 November 2007

The Rest of the Weekend

Aside from preparing for, enjoying, and cleaning up after our Pie Party, we did manage to get a few other projects done around the house on this 3-day weekend.

Saturday was a beautiful day (despite the 100% chance of rain prediction), so we used the opportunity to do some winter preparation: putting up storm doors, packing away the grill and other summer stuff, etc.

During our first winter in Trout Lake, part of the rock wall around our small parking area was knocked down by the snowplow; well, now almost two years later we've finally managed to repair it! Just in time for snow plowing again...

Monday it actually DID rain all day, so we built a fire in the woodstove and worked inside.

Last month we harvested the squash from our garden. Since then they have just been sitting in our garden shed, waiting for some inspired cook. That inspiration didn't come, so Corinne did some research on preserving squash, and as a result we decided that the best method for us was to roast, puree, and freeze. A few hours of effort later (and lots of fun with our vacuum sealer), we had almost 40c of squash puree - and from only the 2 large and 2 small "mystery" squash (which we're guessing is probably some variety of pumpkin). We packaged them in amounts convenient for muffins, breads and pies. We even ate some as a snack, with nothing but some butter, salt and pepper - good stuff. And that still leaves the sugar pumpkins and acorn squash for another day.

Hurray for three day weekends! Boo for the end of summer!

- Mike (& Corinne)

11 November 2007

Pie Party!

Several months ago, Corinne came up with a great idea for our next food-related event: a Pie Party. Sunday we turned that idea into reality and hosted our first pie party.

What exactly is a pie party? It's a potluck party where everyone brings a homemade pie. And what precisely is a pie? Wikipedia says:

A pie is a baked food, with a baked shell usually made of pastry dough that covers or completely contains a filling of fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, cheeses, creams, chocolate, custards, nuts, or other sweet or savory ingredients.

Homemade pies only!1 People seemed generally excited about the party. We attribute that not only to the fact that everyone loves pie, but also that a certain anticipation could build knowing that a multitude of homemade pie awaited, but not knowing precisely how many or what kinds.

We had a total of 34 people at our party, including 7 kids, and 23 different types of pies (7 savory, 16 sweet). We thought we might be a little short on the savory pies, so I made sure to have prepped ingredients for 4 pizzas ready to go if needed (we ate 3). Each pie was labeled and laid out for all to see. The π (pi, get it?) sign was courtesy of Andrew.

  • Caramelized Onion
  • "Boy" Pie (egg, bacon, cheese)
  • Tourtiere (French-Canadian Meat Pie)
  • White Bean and Pesto Pizza
  • Leek & Cheese Pie
  • Chicken Pie
  • Cottage Pie
  • Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pie
  • Peanut Butter Pie
  • Christine's Fruit Pie
  • Bourbon Pecan Pie
  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
  • Pravin's Apple Pie
  • Chocolate Mousse
  • Lemon Custard Tart with Fruit
  • Grape Pie (yes, grape)
  • Peach Street
  • Banana Creme Pie
  • Vermont Maple-Walnut Cream Pie
  • Frozen Margarita Pie
  • Coconut Cream Pie
  • Cherry Cream Cheese Pie
  • Pumpkin Pie

Of particular note were the pies from the first-time pie makers, Simon and Leif. Leif's "Peach Street" was his interpretation of a rustic tart, and Simon's chicken pie was a family recipe. Simon apparently called his mother 5 times during the process to make sure he was doing it right. The pies (and homemade crust) turned out great!

And that's what a food party is all about: getting people to experiment with food and expand their culinary horizons, as well as enjoy good food with good friends.

- Mike (& Corinne)

1 We did have at least one "cheater" who bought their pie. But for their own safety, we won't say who.

03 November 2007

Mormor's 85th Birthday

Corinne's step-grandmother turned 85 recently, and this past weekend we attended her birthday party at her condo in Tacoma. She is Scandinavian (Swedish or Finnish, depending on who you ask), so everyone calls her Mormor, meaning "mother's mother" or "maternal grandmother" in Swedish. (Her husband was similarly called Morfar, or "mother's father".)

Family came in from all over for the party, and most we hadn't met before. There was a large contingent from St. Louis, MO as well as Sweden. We were treated to a real Swedish smörgåsbord, complete with herring, salmon, and swedish meatballs (of course).

They even hired some professional entertainment for the evening. Stan Boreson, self-proclaimed "King of Scandinavian Humor", entertained us with his accordian and his staple of Ole and Lena jokes.

Here's one of the jokes. (Imagine a heavy Scandinavian accent):

A Swede was walking down the street and sees a Norwegian standing on the corner with a gunny sack over his shoulder.
"What's in the gunny sack?", asks the Swede.
"Chickens," replies the Norwegian.
"Yah. If you guess how many there are, I'll give you both of them."
"Okay. 5."
"Nope - you were off by 2."

You get the general idea. He was very entertaining; you could tell from his comfort in front of an audience that he had been doing this for a very long time; Stan used to host a children's show on KING-5 in Seattle.

Eivor, Kris and Kelly did a great job putting the party together. We had a great time!

- Mike (& Corinne)