Friday, May 31, 2013

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Why?  Because it is asparagus time!  Love those tender little shoots.

Garlic Roasted Asparagus
couple pounds of asparagus
2 leeks
3 tablespoons olive oil
couple cloves of garlic crushed
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In glass baking dish toss the asparagus and leek with the olive oil and garlic.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake until spears are tender and lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.  They will need to be flipped a couple of times during the baking.  

A Year Of Atelier Art


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Close of Another Co-op Year

The kids gave science demonstrations.  They studied physics this year but their projects could be about anything science.  Spark chose to talk about potential and kinetic energy of a potato coming out of his potato cannon. 
They performed a play about the 1940's.  Dancer was the mom and this was her two fighting kids.  She was suppose to yell at them and she didn't know how she was going to be able to do it.  Easy once you have been a mom but, I guess when it is really your friends it is harder.

The whole cast.  Spark was back stage commanding the lights and the props, the other two boys where doing sound.

We ended with a huge pot luck.  Dad poured the water, he didn't get his name in the paper though.

Friday, May 24, 2013

How To Clip A Crazy Cat's Nails

First you have to catch him, because some how he some 6th sense that tells him you want to trim his razor-sharp, surgical scalpels. Then you wrap him firmly in a blanket so he can't bite you or get in one last swipe with his untrimmed paw.  Reach in the blanket and pull out a leg, any leg, front or back, the point is to get a nail descalpelized.
Then quick grab his paw and clip.  If you are lucky you might get a whole paw done or just one nail before he sucks it back in.  We find that about four attempts is all we get before he turns into a Tasmanian Devil and you have to put him down.  Wait a couple weeks, this cat has a long memory, until his guard is down a little bit and try for the rest of them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn."

That quote is by Hal Borland an outdoor writer.  He was right, our winter did end but it was touch and go there for a while.  In fact, today it only got up to around 47 and the furnace turned on.  THE FURNACE TURNED ON!  It is May 22nd for goodness sakes. 
 Every year when my Mom's tulips would come up she would say -
Tulips in the garden
Tulips in the park
But the tulips I like best
Are the tulips in the dark
Dad always says that God gives him leaves for his birthday.  Not this year, they came out in full force a couple of days later but, that doesn't count.  It actually seems odd to see things green after so many months of white snow and dead grass brown.
All these pictures were taken by Dancer

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cleaning Leeks

Lots of recipes I read have leeks in the ingredient list.  I have always wondered what all the fuss was about this vegetable and have substituted onion.  Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I ordered some leeks.  They are impressive, about 18 inches in length.  However, all that green top part is simply for show, (there is probably some use for it but I haven't run across it yet) it is cut off and discarded.
What was left was about six inches of useable leek.  Cut it in half.

Cut each half in little slivers.

Crumble all the slivers in a bowl of water and give it a good splash to remove the dirt that is between the layers.  Supposedly they are a very dirty vegetable, however, we found no dirt in the bottom of our bowl.  Could be ours was an exception to the rule so to avoid a broken tooth in the future I will still clean all leeks.
Now, was the leek all it was cracked up to be.  We didn't think so.  Raw it was strong, much like a strong onion or an intense chive but, I would think as with onions and chives it varies per leek.  Cooked we couldn't tell the difference between it and an onion.  From now on I think we will continue to subsitute the plain, old onion.
The only difference in leeks and onions is that leeks have more calcuim, except in green onions, although each only have trace amounts.  Leeks have 10 times the amount of iron 2.1 g per 100 g compared the onion.  Leeks are also significantly higher in vitamin C and they contain vitamin A whereas onions do not.  However, if you are eating plenty of other fruits and vegetables daily this shouldn't make or break you RDA of these vitatmins or minerals.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mushroom Stuffing in Peppers

The adults in the family thought these were wonderful.  One kid thought they were okay and the turned their nose up at it.  That's okay, there are leftovers for the adults.

Peppers are a great nutritional food.  Green bell peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C and the red ones have even more than the green (213% of RDA) and I think are sweeter.  They also have vitamin A (101%).  I had the long sweet red peppers but a bell shaped pepper would hold the mixture better or at least look more beautiful if you are having company.

Depending on the size of your peppers - 4- 6 cleaned.

Cook peppers in water and 1/4 tsp. salt until tender but not overly soft.

1 tbsp coconut butter or butter
1 onion diced

Saute onion in butter until translucent.

3 cups mushrooms finely chopped.  I ran these through the food processor until they were quite fine
1 tbsp water
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. thyme

Add to onion; cover and simmer on low for 10 to 15 minutes until tender.

3 eggs
1 tbsp cream
2 tbsp cheese

Beat eggs, add cream and cheese.  Pour over mushroom mixture and cook until firm.

In greased baking dish fill peppers with mushroom mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Beet Chips

These went over so well nobody could wait for them to cool.
2 beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
That's it!!
Peel the beets and slice them really thin, about a 1/16 of an inch.  I couldn't get them as thin as I would have like so I either need to invest in a mandolin or dig out the food processor.  I was too lazy to clean the food processor so I used a knife.
Put them in a bowl, drizzle the olive oil and toss until they are lightly covered.  It was surprising how far that oil went.
Spread them on two pans and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put one pan on the rack on the top third of the oven and the other pan on a rack on the bottom third of the oven.  Let them bake for 20 minutes until the edges start to look crisp and switch the pans around for another 20 minutes of baking.  If they are still quite moist put them in again until they look crisp.  Beware that they will crisp up a bit during cooling, unless they are eaten before they get the chance.

Frog Antifreeze

Some amphibians, tree frogs for example, spend the winters hiding under matted grass or fallen leaves.  they have little protection from freezing temperatures.  Normally, when an animals cells freeze, the animal's cells and tissues are destroyed by jagged pieces of frozen water in the cells.  How do these frogs avoid a similar fate?  The frogs make their own antifreeze for their cells.  They put extra glucose, a sugar the body uses for energy, into the cells fluid.  Look below for a demonstration that shows how this works.

Three cups are used.  One has just water in it.  The next has one Tbsp. of water and one Tbsp. of corn syrup mixed together.  The last cup is just corn syrup.  Frog blood isn't blue, but the color makes the pictures easier to see.

The picture above is after an hour in the freezer.  The first two cups are frozen.  The corn Syrup is liquid but very thick.

The frozen water has sharp edges and long pointy crystals which would tear and destroy the frog's cells.

The mixture of corn syrup made a mushy blue slush without sharp edged to damage the frogs cells.  The cells remain viable until the frog breaks dormancy in the spring. The corn syrup didn't freeze, but a frog couldn't replace all of their body fluid with glucose and still be alive, they would sort of be embalmed. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Goat Walker

This is Jamal, the little guy we bought so that Dancer could show him in the county fair.  He is a very friendly little thing and follows right along on the lead.  When we milked Desdemona, the new mom of Phil and Si, one side out so they could get on her, Jamal got pretty excited to see a bottle so he must have been bottle fed.
His close up.  He is an Alpine, our first one, and we have Saanens, so he is of course darker furred and also shorter and stockier.   

Happy Birthday Dad!

He opened his gifts in the morning, which was good because he got a new pillow that he could use right away as he slept all day, had a quick supper and he was out the door to work.  Birthdays kinda loose something when you are an adult.
His flaming birthday cake was can of roasted almonds.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's A Boy!!!! And A Boy!!!!

It was a boy year here.  Every kid was a boy, what are the odds of that?
Desdemona was the last to deliver - two more boys! 
She had a hard labor with contractions all Friday afternoon. 

When their water breaks we usually give them half an hour before we give them assistance but, at the half hour mark we saw no sign of a kid.  When her water broke it was yellow, the tell tale sign that the kid had pooed, not a good thing.  

Assuming the kid was dead as soon as we saw a little hoof out far enough we grabbed on and started pulling.  When a kid is still born they often don't come out how they should so our goal now was to keep her uterus in and get the kid out.  While we were waiting for her contractions to help with the process Dad said that the legs felt warm which could be just from being in the mom but they had been out for quite a while.  Pretty soon we could see the mouth and its tongue was sticking out.  We have learned over the years that this isn't a good sign either.  When I touched the tongue it went back in it's mouth and came out again!  Finally, the head came out and then the rest just slides out.  To our delight it was alive and very good condition.  We quick wiped out the mouth and nose so it wouldn't inhale any poo into its lungs and he was good to go.  Next baby we saw a little spot of a hoof and by the time we got back to her it shot out in one push.  They should all be so easy!   

Introducing Phil and Si.  They were born too late to go to the fair so we will let them grow up and then find a new home for them.  They are so cute I can't imagine it will be too hard.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sixteen Bean Soup

Sixteen Bean Soup

When you are perusing the selection of dried beans, peas and lentils at your local market, you may happen upon a 1 lb bag with a mixture of different beans.  On a recent trip to the store I, the Dad, saw a package of 16 Bean Soup Mix.  I thought Spark would think it was fun so I bought one.  Here is how we prepared the soup.

First rinse and check the beans for any foreign materials (i.e. sticks and stones).  You can soak the beans in 8 c. water overnight then drain and rinse and they are ready to use.  For a quicker method add the beans to 8 c. water heat and boil for 2 minutes, removed from heat, cover and let stand for one hour.  Drain and rinse.

Dice and saute, in 2 tbs olive oil, 1/2 c. each carrots, celery and onions.  Cook until onions just begin to change color and the mixture becomes fragrant.  Add six c. water, heat to boiling, then simmer for 1-1/2 to two hours.  The bean soup mix comes with a packet of "ham flavoring".  Rather than using the packet we put a half of a smoked ham shank* in the pot with the water and beans.  Before serving, remove the ham shank and cut off the meat.  Cut the meat into appropriately sized chunks and return to the pot.  Serve hot by itself or with crusty a whole wheat bread.

*You can find smoked ham shank in the meat counter by the bacon.  If you don't see any, ask the meat cutter.  At some stores the shanks are in the cooler or freezer behind the counter.    

Sweet Potato Fries and Onions

Sweet Potato Crisps
These have become a new favorite at our house and pretty much disappear as soon as they are cool enough to eat. The onions are very reminiscent of the inside of an onion ring.

Cut two large sweet potatoes into matchsticks, or a little thicker, or you can cut thin slices.  There are some of each in the picture.  Thinly slice an onion into rings.  The onions should be thin like 1/16".  Toss the sweet potato and onion with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, then toss with sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 425° oven for 20 to 30 minutes.  Turn every 5 minutes as the bottom side will begin to brown.  All of the sweet potatoes need to soft and the edges should start to get crunchy. 

Cinco or Seis De Mayo

Cinco de Mayo was on Sunday but, since we didn't get together with our homeschool co-op to celebrate until Monday we called it Seis de Mayo.   
The kids made sombrero cookies.  They started with a sugar cookie and then with stiff frosting (1/3 cup butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and a couple tablespoons of milk to get it the right consistency) they frosted the rim of the cookie and stuck a peanut butter cup to the top.  Final step was to add sprinkles.

Strawberry slushies, the kid version of a margarita.  Fill the blender with strawberries, a 1/3 cup of sugar and the juice of one lime.  Blend up and chill.  While the strawberries are chilling make crushed ice in the blender or a handy dandy snow cone maker if you have one. 
Combine the strawberries with the crushed ice and enjoy!
Big puffy flowers to decorate for a fiesta.

Stack up several sheets of tissue paper and fold them back and forth like an accordion.

Tie them together in the middle and round the ends.

Separate the layers, first pulling the paper out on one side and then the other side continuing back and forth until one side is fluffy, then do the other side.   I remember making these out of colored Kleenexes as a kid and spraying them with perfume for our Girl Scout banquets. 

Paper plate sombreros.  A paper plate with a cup hot glued to the top and then decorated with all sorts of do-dads and markers.

We finished our celebration with enchiladas and flan.