Infinite Child 2

Infinite Child 2
Our Beautiful Dolphin motorhome

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It’s Getting Close Now & We’re Getting Ready to Miss North Dakota

Yesterday we sat in the motor home listening to the pounding rain. It's hard to accomplish a damn thing when it 's like this. We couldn't load the trailer, couldn't load the truck so we can haul the last of our storage stuff off. We wanted to drag the small freezer outside so we could defrost and wash it out – we couldn't get that done. We couldn't get the smoker fired up and workable in that "gully washer".  When we checked the rain gauge it had a hair over 2" of rain from yesterday alone.

If we are going to stick to our schedule we've got today and Wednesday to get it done – but it's looking like we'll be a day late getting out of here – which means we'll get to our first real "destination" Saturday night rather than Friday. Everything is just going to slide a day later. It's not a huge deal but just throws everything off.  Of course this could be said to be our fault. We took Sunday afternoon off! We knew we shouldn't have, but our reasons were good.

When we got here we were introduced to our 'friend's' family. They immediately welcomed us to the family and have included us in events, visited us for dinner's, invited us to their homes, brought us a deer for the freezer, helped us with this move, and informed us Sunday that they have adopted us as Cousins. If I haven't mentioned them before I have been horribly derelict. We have been so amazed by the people here, and the "family" stands head and shoulders above them all in so many ways.

A Saturday invitation to lunch at a Cousin's house was so amazing. It was a lovely day for an al fresco lunch in their yard. That morning, in the shower I was considering our planned trip to a local farmers' market and hoping for lovely tomatoes for a Panzanella salad. Sadly I resigned myself to the fact that there is NO wonderful crusty bread here and I wouldn't have time to bake any. When we got to their farm the luncheon was laid out along with incredible Rhubarb Slushies (alcoholic ND summer nirvana), fresh fruit, cucumbers, burgers with homemade buns (and all the trimmings), and a beautiful huge Panzanella salad!!!!! Oh, oh, oh, it was so amazing – the flavors, the texture; I was in heaven. She used beautiful fresh tomatoes, herbs from her garden, and . . . for the bread – leftover pepperoni pizza and cheesy breadsticks!!! OMG – the innovation, the imagination, WOW!!! Who'd a thunk it???   I'll have to remember that trick!

Thanksgiving at another Cousin's with the family was wonderful, such a traditional Mid-West dinner with the deviled eggs, roast turkey & ham, and all the sides and desserts. There were two tables to seat all the family and they both were groaning! It also introduced us to the most incredible beverage – Apple Pie; a perfect warming adult beverage to bottle and stuff in snow banks for winter drinking pleasure I have to admit that the greatest part is finding a  gallon jug that got "lost:" in a snow bank in the Spring.

Sunday the family invited us  to spend the afternoon with them.  We accepted, knowing we couldn't spare the time, but, because we wanted to have a chance to visit with them and say our "byes" off we went to the 39th Annual Tappen (ND) Demolition Derby. Neither one of us had ever been to a demolition derby, really weren't sure that we'd stay more than an hour or so – but we were there to the end, and enjoyed the hell out of it. We even tried some North Dakota "booster event food" – a strange but oddly wonderful chili dog; a steamed bun with a brilliantly pink hot dog, a kind of sweetish chili, and some not too spicy cheese sauce. Hmmmmmmm. 

Sadly at the end, after the guys had totally wrecked the cars, the 'girls' got to drive those wrecked cars  in the "powder puff" round. The throttle stuck on one  car and it flew through the exit area and crashed into a Fire Dept. pickup truck and injured a spectator. It was the first accident in the 39 year history of the event. It put a somber end to the event but the injured man waved to the crowd as they were loading him into the ambulance. 

We said our "byes" and drove back to the farm to get on with our packing.  We're missing them all already but we're looking forward to a Spring return home to North Dakota.




Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting ready to go

I've been negligent.  There's just been so much to do since we got back home with the motor home.  We made the difficult decision to put all of our stuff  (that won't fit in the motor home or in our 5 x 9 trailer) in storage and hit the road for a while.  It wasn't an easy decision, but circumstances just made it the right decision.  There's been so much to do to get ready, on top of general day to day stuff.  And now we're down to it.
We have two weeks left!  Two weeks to empty the mobile home into storage, empty and consolidate freezers, refrigerators, and the pantry.  Two weeks to figure out what clothes to take, what we're going to have room for either in the motor home or the 5 x 9 trailer we're going to tow.   Two weeks - good grief, I'm not sure we'll get it all done.  It's a daunting task. 

This is the door we have to get all of our furniture out through - it will require a few extra bodies including one to run the tractor with the "bucket" to lower everything to the ground. 

Of course this would all be easier if the weather would cooperate - it's hard to bust your butt when it's 90+ with 30mph winds and humidity that soaks you.  Packing the truck and trailer and hauling the load 30 miles to the storage unit and unloading it in the heat and wind is not much fun.   Storms are forecast for the weekend which will mean we'll be boxing more stuff and loading the trailer between storms.

We are taking a little freezer in the  trailer.  I'm used to having my 25 cf freezer, the one on my side by side, and the little freezer.  It's going to take a lot of consolidation to make this work.  This week that has entailed making 20 lbs of venison sausage and stuffing it, corning a 5 lb. venison roast, and getting a bunch of pork ready for the  smoker.  This will mean that we can cook and slice the roast, slice the bacon, and then vacuum seal them and the sausages in flat packages that will take less room.  Of course this is consuming time - time that we don't have.  Did I mention that we're making this sausage in the motor home???  I think my motto is "I'll try anything once" or maybe it should be "where there's a will - there's a way"?

Considering that over the winter we made sure to keep all the freezers and the pantry well stocked "just in case" this is going to be a huge project.  We also have been living  30 miles from town - so we got in the habit of making sure that we had ingredients for almost anything we could imagine.  I'm guessing that the trailer will be packed with pantry, kitchen toys, cookbooks, and clothes.  Oh, and no doubt at least one cooler I'm betting.

This has been an interesting process - we've learned a lot about what you can and can't do, what's important in our lives, and how to cram 75 lbs of  "stuff" into a 5 lb sack.  Of course, when we lived on the houseboat we had a whole lot less room and we still managed to be comfortable.  The biggest lesson we learned from living on the houseboat was that we absolutely love being able to "stay home and go somewhere"!  So, off we go again on another adventure.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Last night we stopped at the Holiday Hills RV park in Coalville, Utah.  It was a nice little park with full hook-ups, no cable & no wireless but so what.  They had two adorable looking little cabins.  
We got a nice start this morning and were thinking that we'd have no problem making our destination of Lusk, Wyoming.  Our first stop was at Fort Bridger, a very cool historical site that we would have enjoyed spending more time at - but they had a 4th of July parade and lots of festivities planned.  We opted to get on the highway while the getting was good.  I loved the flag flying over what was the parade grounds at the fort.

We were doing well going through Wyoming - we thought! The sky started getting dark, lots of SFC (scary f clouds). I pulled up and found out that we were in a severe thunderstorm area with 60 to 70 mph winds, quarter sized hail, and possibility of tornados. CRAP!  We decided to pull off the freeway and let the storm get further ahead of us just for safety's sake. When it looked like the coast was clear we pulled back onto the freeway.

It was a two lane construction (with oncoming traffic in the other lane) zone but Bob got the rig up on the freeway and we thought we were in good shape - until the big rig decided to pass us on the right (on the shoulder) and ran out of room just as the end of his trailer was going by. Whapped the side view mirror. I called the trucking company, they called the driver, and we had to all pull over to swap info etc. Dumba$$! He tried to tell Bob it was because he couldn't slow down in time so had to go around - dumba$$. 

Oh, did I mention the three vehicles that passed us in a no passing zone, one over a turn lane & island???? Here goes the last of the three.  People in this state drive weird - like they've never seen another car before - but it's downright beautiful and a little quirky.  

Well time to call it a night!  Tomorrow we've got some time to make up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On the road - again!

We got a burr under our tail.  As much as we love the farm, and as much as we love North Dakota, we decided to get a motorhome and "cruise" the country - going back to the farm now an again.  We found the perfect coach in our price range in California and drove out to get it.   We spent 5 days with good friends (next to the word "friend" in the dictionary there's a picture of them) then found storage for our van, loaded the coach with all of orur stuff, and here we are on the road.

This is our second day on the highway - we're taking the Infintte Child 2("IKid2"or "the Kid" for short) back to the farm to get her loaded out from home there.  Bob's also going to work on getting the mobile home ready for winter so that we have no worries while traveling.

Traveling in a motorcoach sure gives you a different perspective.  It"s obvious: you sit up higher than in a car or truck< for the driver it"s bigger and  different to drive.  The subtle diffrerences are interesting.  The worst part of the trip from North Dakota to California (unless you go through Oregon & Washington) is from the Nevada border to the Sierras.  It's dry, flat, and after you've seen it (with and without snow) once you've seen it.  It has always seemeed to me that Winnemucca was just awful - stuck in the middle of all that desert. 

Last night, after Bob's first full day of driving the Kid around we decided to stop for the night in Winnemucca.  A little web searching and we found the HiDesert RV Park.  What a great place.  Lots of pull through sites, a pool, 2 dog parks, and lots of other amenities that were quite nice.  I saved thier phone number in case we drive through there again.  We found a bright spot in an otherwise dismal landscape. 

Back on the road again today.  This first part is more of the same, dry, flat, and more and more of the same.  We are heading for Salt Lake City, then into Wyoming where we'll stop for the night.  Well - now to watch the scenery go by and try to get some pictures to share.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Six Months Into a New Life

Wow – it's been over six months here. We're told that we've survived the worst of it. We've lived through the winter without running back to sunshine.

Uh, yeah. And winter was a revelation. The stunning beauty of the countryside with drifts of snow along the roads looking like someone had sculpted beautiful sparkling white buttercream frosting into delicate swirls. Little farmsteads tucked back in trees stood out more in a landscape covered in snow. The weather was cold – brisk doesn't describe it; but you bundle up, and do what has to be done. The people moving snow are bundled in their snow gear, hats pulled tight on their heads. You learn to plan ahead here, plug your car in at night, make sure everything is "winterized", and know that any snowstorm can have the ability to keep you home for a few days.

Shoppers hurry from heated car to heated store, rural shoppers mindful that they should make sure that they stock up on things – just in case. People meet, linger, discuss, and in many stores find a table and sit and have a cup of coffee before they meander on their way. The checkers take their time, they visit with you while they ring you up – and the next person in line is patient, waiting for their turn to check out and get some conversation. The sales clerks rush to help you, in the hardware stores they'll give you advice on your projects and tell you where to buy those items you need but they don't carry.

Grocery shopping here has been a learning experience. Many of us have no idea how spoiled we are or should I say were. The produce aisles of the grocery store were loaded with an abundance of fruits and veggies from exotic places and people expected to see a variety of herbs, and items from around the world. Not so here. But we are adapting We have learned that we're going to have to plant a garden in order to have some of the things we're used to eating, and for the rest we'll buy what's available here – locally.

Spring was around the soggy corner. We were watching the masses of beautiful sparkling white snow turn into sodden piles of brownish white yuck that gets a bit smaller every day and makes the yard muddier. All those beautiful "inches of snow" are trying to find somewhere to go – and into the frozen ground in not an option. Low fields and ditches have combined to make "lakes" and if the road is under that lake . . . . oh well. You're staying home for a while. We needed continuing warm weather and wind now to dry things out. For a while the snow would start melting about mid-day when the sun came out, then at night all that melted snow froze harder than a rock. So the next day there's more stuff to melt, now the road that was under water had geese ice skating on it. And there was the hope that with enough heat (60 would be be nice! With 40's at night) and some wind for a few day maybe Lake 41st Street will subside and we could get to town.

Of course the freezer was being slowly emptied, and the fridge was getting down there - but no worries; I am known as the "great stocker". Food was fine, wine and cocktails were liable to get a bit strange by the end of an unplanned weeklong stranding on the farm. After 8 days we finally saw the road – soggy, but above water. The 9th day was perfect and off to town we went with our listsl

This amazing celebration of spring called for an amazing dessert. So the brain – after 9 days confinement; came up with an idea.

Chocolate S'mores Pie with Cherry Marshmallow fluff

1 graham cracker crust – I made a home made crust with organic graham crackers with no HFCS – Baked per directions

1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

¾ cup butter

1 ½ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa

5 eggs

1 cup evaporated milk

1 ½ tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350

In a double boiler over barely simmering water, melt chocolate chips and butter until the butter is melted. Stir until smooth, and whisk in salt, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. Whisk until well blended. Pour mixture into the crust.

Bake until the filling has puffed and the very center still wiggles just a bit. It will look something like a giant brownie – better a bit over baked than under. This will make a deep dish 9" pie. When the pie is done remove from the oven and cool completely. Chill until ready to cover with the fluff.


My splurge cookbook this Spring is "Marshmallows, Homemade Gourmet Treats" by Eileen Talanian. The reason I just had to have it is simple – I discovered the joy of homemade marshmallows! Generally I hate marshmallows, meaning the commercial junk in the store. I think it's for two reasons – they're tasteless and they're made with HFCS. Ms. Talanian advocates the use of pure cane sugar only.

While the pie was baking I started the Cherry Marshmallow Fluff.

Ms. Talanian makes the fluff in two steps. First the Marshmallow Syrup

2 cups of water

5 1/3 cups granulated cane sugar

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

a pinch of salt

In a heavy 4 quart pan stir together all of the ingredients until the sugar is moistened with a heatproof spatula. Bring it to a boil over med-high heat and cover the pan for 2 minutes (so the steam can wash any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan).

Uncover the pan, insert a candy thermometer and increase the heat to high. Do not stir once you have removed the lid. Continue cooking until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes. Pour into clean jars and cap.

(Author's note: Store it at room temperature for up to 2 months. If the syrup begins to form crystals in the bottom of the jar don't be alarmed; pour out the amount of syrup you need when you use it, without scraping the jar. Discard the crystallized part left in the jar.)

Cherry Fluff

For the base:

¼ cup 100% tart cherry juice

1 cup marshmallow syrup

1 cup granulated cane sugar

Place the base ingredients in a heavy 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the lid, insert the candy thermometer. Increase the heat to medium high, and cook the base until it reaches 260 degrees F. Again, don't stir once the lid has been removed.

While the base is cooking place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.

For the egg foam:

5 large egg whites at room temperature or the equivalent in reconstituted dried egg whites.

1/8 tsp salt

When the base reaches 225 degrees start beating the egg whites on med. speed until they are opaque and the beater leaves firm trails in the whites.

In a small bowl mix together the flavoring ingredients:

1/3 cup 100 tart cherry juice

¼ tsp. pure almond extract

½ to ¾ tsp. kirsch

When the base reaches 260 degrees take the pan off the heat and let it cool for 3 or 4 minutes. Stream the base down the inside of the mixer bowl, into the egg whites, with the motor running on medium high speed. Increase the speed to high and beat the fluff for 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the flavoring ingredients a tablespoon at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. When all the flavoring has been added, turn the mixer to high and beat for 1 minute.

The fluff can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Before serving the pie, generously cover with the Cherry Fluff. Garnish with chocolate jimmies or graham cracker crumbs as desired. Chill pie until ready to serve. 

This pie just screams Spring to me!  Sorry there's no picture of it - but we couldn't wait!






Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Experiment

(Hey, don't look at me like that!)

I wound up thawing a good sized package of venison chunks that were destined for the grinder by mistake. Of course I had to figure out something different to make with it. We had noticed the similarity between the venison and lamb – so Greek came to my mind, Pastitsio in particular.

I had discovered this recipe in a 1971 version of "The New York Times Cookbook" by Craig Claiborne many years ago and fell madly in love with it. It had been a long time since I'd made Pastitsio – perhaps having something to do with the cookbook going missing for many years, until I found another copy in a thrift shop. There were so many recipes I'd made from this book over the years, all of them wonderful, but this was always a favorite.

The original recipe makes 24 servings. I don't think I'd ever seen leftovers from it – but this time for 2 people I cut the quantities roughly in half (and we managed to gobble up a third of that in one night!) So, with adjustments made I give you the North Dakota version of a Greek classic!

1 lb elbow macaroni (I used Dream Fields low carb – to keep the dish lower in carbs, and because it's a North Dakota product)

8 Tbs. butter

1 Cup finely chopped onion

2 lbs ground venison – could use lamb or beef, but the venison was perfection.

1 15oz can tomato sauce

Salt & freshly ground pepper

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp oregano

1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

4 Tbs. all-purpose flour

4 Cups milk

¾ Cup cream

3 egg yolks

¾ Cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water until tender but still firm . Drain and toss with a bit of olive oil, set aside.

Heat 4 Tbs. butter in a skillet and add the onion. Cook stirring until the onion is wilted. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the lumps of meat. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato sauce, salt & pepper, cinnamon, oregano, and nutmeg. Stir well, and cook over medium low heat until mixture thickens slightly.

In a saucepan melt remaining butter and stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for several minutes to cook off the flour taste. Heat the milk and add to the roux, stirring until thickened and smooth. Combine the cream and the egg yolks. Temper with some of the hot sauce and then add to the sauce and heat thoroughly – but do not boil as that will curdle the sauce.

Butter a 3 or 4 qt. Baking dish. Make a layer of macaroni, a layer of meat, another layer of macaroni, and another layer of meat. Pour the cream sauce over evenly, top with grated cheese. Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand to firm up. Cut into large squares and serve.

We made a simple salad with cucumber, tomato, olives, peppers, dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and some Greek seasoning.

I have to say that Pastitsio will never be the same unless it's made with venison for me, but it's worth trying with beef or lamb if you can't get venison.  I used more liquid in proportion than the original recipe called for since the venison was so lean.  The extra moisture worked to keep the dish moist without adding more fat. 


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cleaning up Junk Food???

One of the wonderful things about North Dakota seems to be the quality of the food - cheese from pasture grazed cows, locally grown grain products, chickens and eggs from family farms, and more.  This fits so well with our goal to eat clean and locally grown food.   But once in a while  . . . .

After several months of old standby's and hearty North Dakota food we suddenly went on an Asian food binge.   Chicken with lime & peanut sauce with rice, fried rice with extra eggs (a breakfast treat),  ginger glazed beef short ribs with more rice, and lunch out at a Chinese restaurant.  We broke the streak Sunday with a big pot of venison & black bean chili.  We were ready for a change!  Bob wanted something "American" and simple. 

Somewhere I'd seen a "recipe" for baked corndogs (or corndog bake???).  It called for a box of cornbread mix, 4 bun length hot dogs, and some American cheese slices.  We're on a mission to clean up what we eat and avoid as much commercially processed food as we can - sooooooo. . . . from scratch buttermilk cornbread, some hot dogs that were uncured, natural, and didn't contain high fructose corn syrup or fillers.  As a concession to junk food I used some processed "loaf" type cheese.

I was talking to my oldest daughter on the phone while it was baking.  She said, "Mom, this just isn't YOU."  But we were hopeful! It looked good, tested done so I followed the procedure - placing the cheese slices on top, covered it with foil, and let it sit for the prescribed time.  It looked good, the cheese was melty - but something looked funny when I tried to serve it - the cornbread still wasn't done!  Back in the oven. 

The end result - when you want a corndog get a corndog or use the recommended processed ingredients.  The results with healthy ingredients just didn't work.  I guess there are some things you just can't "clean up"  and corndogs are one of them.   Sometimes you just have to give in to a craving and go for it.   

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Road Less Traveled

The Farm is outside of town, on a mixed stretch of washboard pavement and dirt & gravel.  This time of year it's got patches of ice and snow in various places and the roadsides are covered in snow.    Every time we make the trip into town, or back home we see something that catches our eye. It could be a little farm tucked into the trees that we only noticed because it stood out against the white sparkling snow or the way the light sparkling snow blows across the road.

The other day we drove into town and spotted something lying on the other side of the road.  It isn't a frequently traveled road so we agreed to stop on the way home and check it out.  By the time we ran our errands and headed home the sun was beginning to set, the temperature was dropping, and there was a faint golden glow on the snow in the distance.

We stopped and got out of the van.  Lying there, crumpled and broken was a beautiful ringneck pheasant.  We thought perhaps it had been hit by a car, after all in California dead animals on the road are "road-kill".  Bob carefully picked the pheasant up out of the road and gently place it on the snow  beside the road where it would not be flattened by speeding cars.

As we stood alongside the road we felt a great sadness for the beautiful bird, but as we looked around on the snow ground the story told itself.  There were feathers scattered over a wide area as if there had been a struggle.  Then we spotted the tracks leading away from the road . . .up through the snow and away.  Perhaps a fox, maybe a coyote had fought for his dinner only to be frightened away by a car on the road.

It would be normal to feel some small vindication that the predator had lost, but in this unforgiving landscape there was a sadness that he had lost his dinner.  Survival of the fittest really is the law of the land.  The weak, and those unable to adapt to the cold and the wind do not survive.  It is the circle of life.

It seems strange to me that a crockpot I've owned for 30 years, and hardly ever used since my kids were little, has re-surfaced and is now my favorite thing.  A pot roast can simmer in beer and seasonings until it's butter tender.  Parsnips, carrots, turnips, and onions go in to complete the meal.  Of course for two  people that's a lot, so after dinner the leftovers are cut into bite sized pieces and returned to the crock pot with some wine and refrigerated overnight.

In the morning it goes back into the crockpot on low where it simmers to perfection while the day's projects are done.  In the afternoon a half cup of hulless barley is cooked and added to the crockpot along with a can of mushrooms and a can of cannellini beans.  By dinner time the temperature had dropped lower and a big bowl of steaming hot beef & barley soup was the perfect ending for the day.  Leftovers took on a whole new life. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Spendid Day & A Spledid Meal

We got up again this morning to find there had been a heavy fog and the temperature had dropped.  It's called hoar frost, and develops from the moisture in the ground rising and freezing.  The beauty is always stunning, never exactly the same twice.  Everything looks like it's been powdered sugared, with beautiful crystals forming.  This is the 3rd day in  a row that we've seen this specatcular sight - although it's a little lighter than before.

Monday, as the sun burned the fog off, we were stunned by the beauty of our world. Some giant power had frosted everything with lovey sugary crystals.  Power lines, tree brances, even the most mundane things were made more beautiful than we could believe.  

Clothes pins on the line became beautifully decorated with the frost.  It was amazing against the brilliant blue of the skyl  

The windrows of trees looked like they were in full bloom with frosty white blossoms so delicate and fragile that the lightest breeze would blow clouds of them to the ground. 

We watched out the windows that day, the sun playing with light and shadows on the rolling prairies made a constant show that was better than any TV.  As little puffy or wishp clouds blew over they would cast shadows on the snow cover hills.  The view changed hourly - it was hard to not just stand a gaze raptly out at the beautyful countryside.

Even the little weeds on the ground, poking up where the snow had been plowed looked like little frost covered trees.

Of course life calls, and we had to move on to the "projects" (sounds better than"chores" doesn't it) that we had lined up for the day. Some of the members were planning a MLK memorial review dinner.  There were a few variations but the general theme was cold oil fried chicken, and banana pudding.  Appetizers ranged from deviled eggs to bread & butter pickles, sides varied widely.

We picked the cold oil fried chicken, bread & butter pickles, and corn & goat cheese grits, and finished with Maya Angelou's incredible bread pudding.  

The cold oil fried chicken was a revelation for two reasons - I gave my electric frying pan to a dear friend,  and we couldn't remember the last time I'd fried chicken.  Oh, two big mistakes.  Now I'm on the hunt for an electric frying pan.

I think one of the reasons the chicken was so amazing was that it was totally organic from an Amish farm, tender, and tasty!

The grits were stone ground, slow cooked and wonderful.  But, the hit of the meal was Maya Angelou's Banana Pudding.   I have made lots of meringues - all of them either cookies or as pie shells for a Lemon Angel pie (from back in the 70's).  I've never made one that goes on top.  They weep, they do all kinds of strange things if you screw up one little thing.  But this is the new fearless me - so I made it!  OMG.
I will do this gain.  I may even try lemon meringue!

Maya Angelou’s Banana Pudding

3/4 cup plus 1 T. sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 cups milk
8 eggs, separated
3 T. butter
1 T. vanilla extract
3 cups vanilla wafer cookies (‘Nilla wafers, I’d use)
4 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan; stir until blended. Stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and boiling; boil 1 minute, then, remove from heat.

In small bowl whisk egg yolks, then whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot custard until blended. Pour yolk mixture back into custard in saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla until blended.

Place half the vanilla wafers on bottom of shallow 2-qt. casserole. Top with layers of banana slices and custard. Repeat layering, ending with pudding.

Beat egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar in large mixing bowl at low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar; increase speed to medium and gradually beat in remaining sugar. Beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Immediately spoon meringue over hot custard, being sure the meringue touches baking dish on all sides (this helps prevent it from shrinking). Transfer to oven and bake until golden, 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.   (I set mine in a big pan, covered with foil, and stuffed it in a snowbank to chill.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Retire to North Dakota????

I have been derelict and I apologize.  When I frist started this blog it was going to be about our trip from California to North Dakota - highlights and low lights; the food, and the events.  Some day I'll post some of the pictures - most taken from the van because we couldn't stop; the truck with all of our belongings was at least 2 hours ahead of us every day.  It became a pain.

There was absolutely No decent food on the trip until we hit Montana.  Of course that was our fault - if it had a drive through we ate there.  By Montana we were sick of it, and the friend driving the truck was going to meet us a bit ahead.  Luckily we found a little place called Clark's Crossing and we were at the point where we needed to sit down and have someone bring us food on a plate.

I ordered the Wasabi Chicken wrap (wasabi . . .  in Montana???) and the cole slaw, which for me is always an iffy proposition.  I usually wind up with some over-sweet mess with raisins, pineapple, and enough sugar to make a dentist grin.  Not this time!  The slaw was spicy, bright, just the right amount of "creamy" and a perfect compliment to the spicy chicken wrap.  I was a happy camper.

Arriving here, we found a lot of hard work to get the mobile home ready to actually live in.  That accounts for most of my absence. The first view of the farm was mind boggling.  It's rugged, needs work, but exudes peace and quiet, the absolute beauty of the country here.  I couldn't even wait to get out of the van!

We were busy, many, many trips to the hardware stores for materials.  Few expeditions for fun.  Our first night our "Farm Mates" treated us to dinner and beers at one of the (two)local bars.  Hand formed hamburgers patties were cooked perfectly and overflowing the sides of the buns, the fries were crisp and hot - and the ice-cold beer was Killians, on tap!    Bob and I slipped into Medina one day for lunch - Knoephla soup.  This is comfort in a bowl; potatoes, carrots, celery, all in a creamy chicken based soup with little dumplings.  Oh, so hooked.

Most of the work is done that can be done until Spring now.  We're warm and cozy, the views out our windows are amazing -  this the view from the living room window on a sunny day.  I love the funky "hip roof" barn and the lake.

When we first arrived we would frequently see cows grazing in the field around the barn. Oh, and the geese and swans that crowded the surface of the lake to rest on their trip south were so beautiful.

After the Christmas day snow storm - same barn - and there's the frozen lake with a huge snow drift.  Wow!  I am stunned by the beauty.   The snow here is like sugar, light and sparkling in the sun.  The wind blows the light sandy snow so the drifts and patterns are different every day.  Who needs TV?????

Now for some snow shoes so we can go for walks where the snow is deep, or not plowed or shoveled. 

This is the view from the kitchen.  Looking out at the treeline and the snow certainly makes dishes more fun.

Every time we go somewhere we see something new, the light touching the snow at different times of day, the tracks of an animal in the snow, a little farm tucked back in the trees, an old barn in a field,  When people ask why we retired here we are amazed that they don't seem to see all the beauty or appreciate all the wonderful  things we've found.  But I guess if you're not fond of the cold (or sick & tired of it), don't enjoy a feeling of isolation, (in our case on 40 acres 5 miles from a tiny town), and the snow you might not think North Dakota is special.  We don't agree!