Sunday, February 26, 2012

Another Productive Weekend!

How was your weekend?  I hope it was good.  Ours was BUSY!!!  On Friday, our son moved out.  So we spent Friday night helping him get in and settled.  On Saturday morning Eri and Noah were here for a bit, and after they left, I got busy with my carpet shampoo machine, and cleaned Drew's bedroom carpet.  His room was the only room I didn't do a few weeks ago when I did the rest of the house.  That room is sitting empty, nice and clean, and ready to turn into an office.  We are looking for a desk and then we will start working on putting that room together.  Saturday night I made a salad that is a family favorite.  Usually for summer, but I had a craving.  My Mom has been making this salad for years.  It is done with chopped romaine lettuce, rotisserie chicken, grape tomatoes, a handful of parmesan cheese, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a package of pasta, cooked and cooled, and topped with Caesar dressing and croutons.   I usually cut some ribbons of fresh basil if I have it too, and toss that in.  Grind plenty of fresh sea salt and cracked pepper into bowl and toss.
So delicious.  When I make this salad, I wash my romaine lettuce, remove the core, and then spread the leaves out onto clean cotton dishtowels.  A  nice flour sak tea towel works best.  Then roll it up to absorb the water and put the entire roll into the fridge to crisp up for a bit.  This is my Mom's trick, and it makes the salad so nice and crisp.

This morning before heading outside to do our yard work, I made Toad In The Hole.  Usually I make this with thick slices of sourdough, or some other type rustic bread.  But it was getting to be slim pickins' in the grocery department and I didn't have any sourdough, but I had some Everything Bagels.  I thought....hmmmmmmmm, I bet that would make fantastic Toad In The Hole!!!  I cut the center of the bagel out a little bit more to hold the egg.  Butter the insides of the bagels, and place buttered side down into a medium hot pan.  Crack eggs into the holes of the bagel and let cook to desired doneness.  We like a runny yolk, so I don't leave it long.  The first egg ran out over the hole, but no matter.  It all cooks up just fine.  Of course it is prettier if it doesn't run over, but it still tastes yummy.
 Salt and pepper your egg, and flip, then toast the other side. 
 After I removed the eggs and bagel, I threw a couple of pieces of Canadian Bacon into the hot pan just long enough to heat through, and topped one half of the bagel with the ham. 
I may never make this the old way again!  By the way, the usual way is to cut a hole out of bread with circle shaped (or any shape) biscuit cutter, and crack the egg into this hole and cook.  Toasting the cut out piece alongside pan as well.  But using these Everything Bagels made this fantastic!!!   If you make your eggs hard cooked, you can eat as a sandwich. But we like a runny yolk so we use knife and fork.  Try it!
After breakfast, Geeps headed on out in his overalls to work.  I got dinner going before I joined him.  I made a pot of white bean soup, and a loaf of English Muffin Bread in the bread machine.  
I do a quick start on my beans, by first rinsing, then covering with water in heavy pot and bringing to boil.  Then let sit in hot water for a few minutes and drain.  Refill pot with fresh water, and get it on to boil again.  Meanwhile I start to chop.  First a whole onion.  And I tried to demonstrate an easy way to dice an onion, for those who may not know this.  Cut your onion in half.  Remove papery outer skins, and leave the root of the onion in tact.  So when slicing into half, cut through the root, right down the center.
With sharp knife, run a cut about 1/4 inch from the root, down alongside the onion to other end, about every 1/4 of an inch, across entire half of onion.
 Then while holding your other hand on top of onion to hold stable, take your knife and make cuts horizontally through the onion the same way, about three times ought to do.  Taking care to not cut through the root.  This is what is holding the onion together for you.
Now you have made cross hatches going up and down, and then horizontally.  This leaves the dicing part, and it is so easy, it almost falls into tiny diced pieces all by itself.  Use your other hand to sort of support the top of the onion as you go, getting a nice even dice.  Ending just before you reach the root. 
 Do the same to other half of onion, and you are done. Quick and easy!  Very little waste, and the only thing left is the root end.
 I also add several diced carrots and several stalks of celery, including the celery heart.  Be sure to leave the leaves on the inside pieces, as they are loaded with flavor.  Using my favorite kitchen tool, a bench knife, I scoop it all up, and toss it right into the pot.
Just a rough chop on these veggies.  This will be cooking all day, and there isn't going to be any whole pieces when the soup is done.

Add a generous amount of cracked pepper and fresh sea salt to pot.  And then bring it up to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer, and then add your ham pieces.  Now, I have used Ham Hocks many times, and I love the smokey flavor this adds to the soup.  But, there is not a lot of meat on the bone and I prefer to add some meaty pieces of ham to this dish.  If we ever have a honey baked ham, or spiral sliced ham, I save the bone and a few meaty pieces to make this with, but since I didn't have that, I bought this pack of smokey ham pieces from fresh & easy.
Oh, and the package of the beans too.
The ham package contains a LOT of nice pieces of ham.  I removed any visible fat, and then gave it a very rough chop and threw it in the pot. 
Put the lid on the pot and leave on low for several hours.  At least 6 to 7 hours.
When done, I take my immersion blender and blend just enough to make it creamy.  You don't want your ham all ground up, or every bean mashed.  Just blend it a little bit.  Photo below is before I blended.
 And then after blending, you will have a nice creamy, to die for soup.  Perfect for a day after working hard in the yards all day!

With fresh baked bread, it was a perfect meal for our tired and hungry selves.
Today in the yard, Geeps took EVERYTHING out of our shed, and washed it thoroughly, inside and out.  Then turned it, giving us more more space on our patio.  Boy what a job!!!  We found things in there we hadn't seen in many years!!!
Some over here, and some of there.....
 What a mess!!!!  He scrubbed, and hosed, and rinsed, and washed, til it looked like brand new again.
While he was doing that, I got busy on my garden.  I shoveled ALL three raised boxes of soil out of the boxes so that I could move them to another position.  Then I organized all of my garden tools and supplies, and set it all up in preparation for Good Friday, which is when I plant.   I will be adding two more raised beds this year, and taking over a bit more space, so I wanted to get it all laid out.  Guess who jumped right into the boxes once I had them all moved and freshly tilled?
I let the ladies out of the coop, and got busy mucking out their house.   I laid fresh hay, and added some wall art.
 See it over there?  The pretty blue, with the chicken on it?  It was one of the saks that their feed was in.  I thought it was so pretty, so I punched holes in the four corners with an awl and hung it right onto the chicken wire with zip ties.  I think they liked it!
They are all five so big and hearty.  They graze and free range every day as soon as all of the eggs have been collected.   That is Ham with the feathered feet.
The birds are all preparing for their nesting season.  The hummers are a favorite of mine.  I love to watch them outside my kitchen window in the evening when I am fixing dinner.  Tonight there were dozens of them.
Just before heading into the house this evening, I found a Bushtit nest in the bottle bush tree out back. We had one a few years back in one of the orange trees, and it was fascinating to watch them.  The Mama bird builds one of the most interesting nests I have seen.  It is long and tubular, like a sling.  Imagine a water balloon.  They leave an entry hole at the top of the nest, and the eggs are laid in the bottom of the nest, and it is not visible from the outside.   
I will try to get a better picture later.  The eggs are in there.  The nest is warm to touch it, down at the bottom.  The Mama was watching me very closely.
I love birds.  I am a Bird Nerd, for sure!  I have many houses set up here on our property, and I have feeding stations all over.  Last year, the song birds were not nearly as prevalent, and for the first time in several years, my Bluebirds didn't nest.  We later found out why.  A Mama hawk decided to build her gigantic nest in the large Sycamore across the street and those hawks terrorized my birds until they all went elsewhere to raise their families.  My neighbors trimmed their trees and removed the nest after the hawks had left.  But now we have them nesting next door.  There are already hatched young in the nest.  We hear them all day...screeching all throughout the yards, letting us know that they have taken up residence!  Although it is very interesting to watch them so closely, I would much rather have my songbirds.  My Oriole's being my favorite!!!!    Here is the nest next door.  Can you see it up there?  That cone shaped thing high in the tree?
How about now?
This warm weather has the birds nesting early this year.
XO  Kris


Grammy Staffy said...

Oh my goodness!!! You are one busy gal. I so enjoyed the eye feast of all that delicious food. Yummy! And you taught me a new way to cut up onion. I will try that the next time I cut one up.

I am starting to get well so hopefully I can follow you good example and get more done this coming week. Have a good one. Hugs, Lura

Kelli said...

Ok I wish it was not 11:00 at nigh because after looking at all the yummy food you made I sure want to eat! I am going to give the salad a try this look great.

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love the food!:D

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Holly said...

You do such a great job photographing your food. I want the salad for breakfast this morning. I am definately going to make the bagel/egg thing for Brian next weekend. He will love it! You two have so much energy on the weekends. We don't get a lot done here, it's our sloth time. Miss you!

Debbie said...

Good morning! WOW What a productive week-end! The soup looks great...and so does the rest of the food. Your always soo busy is inspiring. Have a good day!

Jill said...

Wow! You did have a busy weekend! I was entertaining and you were hard at work! LOL You'll have to come read my post about the bird that visited us this weekend. :-)
All that food looks so delicious!! Makes me want to go in and get cooking for a week! LOL
Hope you have a wonderful week and get some time to rest!


Bethany said...

Someone felt like cooking this weekend :)
I love birds too - my brother is mind-numbingly terrified of them. It's funny to watch him on the beach when the gulls come if you drop a cracker or could almost wet yourself at his disproportionate reaction to the threat :)

Debbiedoo's said...

Productive and delicious. I love you and Hannah's picture, so sweet, love her bow:)

NanaNor's said...

Morning Kris, I just got home from yoga and you've made me hungry-but also reminded me to take something down for dinner. I love all your recipes!!! You've certainly been a busy lady. I'm going for a walk shortly and then have to look around to see what needs to get done here-maybe some outside work before the snow comes tonight.
Have a great day!

Pammy Sue said...

You said bushtit! Ha-ha-ha! (Yes, I am 12 years old.)

Nicolle said...

The bean soup looks amazing. I would love that. The salad looks so good too. When I used to work {outside the home. haha}, the cafe in our building had a similar salad with pasta and lettuce. It was so delicious! I never would have put those things together, but they work so well together. Looks like a fun, busy, and productive weekend. :)

Karen Bates said...

Hummingbirds already? Wow. You guys are so busy...I am tired now...I need a nap! lol

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

You are such a good cook, Kris. I love your onion cutting technique and your tip about crisping romaine lettuce. I also love making soup from scratch, and ham and bean is one of our favorites.

Hawks seems to be making a strong come back everywhere. I hope they don't chase all your pretty songbirds away!

Debbie Kay said...

Thats what I call a "good busy". Sure is nice to make head-way like that huh?

Oh and it made me smile to see the little chicken sign I gave you. Too sweet!


Jann Olson said...

Hi Kris, you are just a bundle of knowledge when it comes to cooking girly. I love the towel idea. I always just wash mine and set it out on a towel to dry. Then I put it in a zip lock in the fridge. The towel rolled up is a great idea. All of your cooking looks mighty tasty! You have been such a busy little Spring Cleaner haven't you. We have warm weather one day and then (like right now) it will snow. I know it won't stick around for long. Can't wait to get out and work on a new little garden area hubs made for me last fall. Darn, I don't have any girls to come out and play with me.

Sinta Renee said...

My mouth is watering! Your recipies look wonderful. I am going to have to use you as my guru! I will be making notes on how to make that soup... maybe even for tonight! I have been catching up on your blog and all the fun things you have been up to. I love the photo of you and the girls on gma day!!! xxoo

~Niki~ said...

Hi Kris.
I need your address. I'm sending you a little somethin'.

Maryrose said...

Looks like you and Greg have been busy. Food looks great too!

DaCraftyLady Debb said...

wow "Geeps" and you have been busy, I am thinking of putting in a"garden ring" this year I keep talking about it and blogged on it but haven't added one. Never read a recipe blog write up when you're hungry, now I am chickens look happy, and the nests, how cool, hmmm aging myself there...I love bird watching great shot of the hummmers...

Anonymous said...

Reading about all that food has made me hungry. It all looks good.

deb said...

that soup looks delish....thats very very similar to how I make my split pea soup...warms to soul!!!
your day wore me out!!!!
I miss all my bird houses that I left at my old house....I had babies in every bird house...none place to put them and too many wild creatures up here:( I loved when the gnatcatchers had thier babies!!!
Great post!!! the chickens look amazing...I would love to visit them again!

annielizabeth said...

Don't ya just love getting all organized? Love the bird info and pix.