Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cheating at Pot Pie

Looking through the freezer today, I noted a package full of ice that was supposed to contain meat. The label proclaimed it turkey sausages, which are rarely wonderful at the best of times. Fortunately, they were almost untouched by freezerburn. (Note for bachelors: the nice packages of meat at the store with lots of air and space to display the meat inside are NOT good for freezing the meat! Remove it to a ziplock with the air pushed out and relevant meat & date information written in Sharpie! Your taste buds will thank you!)

How to turn unimpressive turkey sausages into good dinner? Why, by surrounding them with a thick, rich, flavorful gravy that will provide all the moisture and flavor, and vegetables that will give a good contrasting texture. Sounds like a recipe for pot pie to me!

Now, I cheated a little at first. By the time I had cooked the sausages enough to know they'd turn out to be okay, I did not want to wait another two hours while pie crust pastry relaxed in the fridge. I also object to paying $2.30 for $0.35 worth of ingredients, plus the half-hour it'd take to run to the store and buy pie crusts. So, instead of cutting refrigerated butter into flour, I reached into the freezer, where I store the bulk of the on-sale butter until ready to use. Also, instead of spilling salted flour all over myself and the floor while exercising restraint on cursing, I cut the frozen butter into the flour using the food processor. I adore technology! As for the very cold water - I just ran cold tap water into a glass of ice cubes before I started messing with the flour and butter, and it was plenty chilled to dribble on and fork the dough together. In the end, the dough rested for roughly 30 minutes while I sauteed the veggies. (And the glass cutting board rested in the freezer, to make rolling dough easier.)

When it came to sauteeing the veggies, I cheated a bit. Sure, I used the last onion that was going soft, and the celery that was starting to wilt a little, and chopped one carrot - but after they were sauteed, I reached into the freezer and pulled out a bag of mixed vegetables. As they've been frozen, they will be softer than raw veggies, and don't really need to be sauteed as much as warmed up. Stirring them in, I added garlic, and black pepper, thyme, sage, and rosemary. As the veggies were steaming, I chopped up the sausages, and added the coins of meat back to the mix, stirring them so they soaked in the juices.

I rolled out the dough for the bottom crust, and draped it gently into the pie plate. Then I considered my filling. It wasn't quite thick and savory enough. I should make a roux or a gravy, to provide a savory note that the turkey sausages lacked...

Instead I reached into the pantry shelf, and cracked a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. I try very hard not to use the soup mixes - I try to make everything from scratch. I view it as a failure to resort to them - in fact, my test for a good slow-cooker cookbook is how many recipes in it do NOT call for "can of cream of X soup." But I was tired, and it was late, and dinner was already 45 minutes of baking away...

It tasted wonderful. Calmer Half thoroughly enjoyed it, and Housemate stated that this should definitely go on the make again list. The buttery pie crust was light, crispy, and flaky - even the bottom crust. The filling was wonderful, savory and redolent with herbs, and dense with meat and vegetables. And if it was this good with turkey sausage with a touch of freezerburn, I think it's going to be wonderful with some of the venison still in the freezer and awaiting a dish to delight its hunter.

To paraphrase Larry Corriea, "If it's cheating and it rocks, then it rocks!"

Flaky Buttery Pie Crust Recipe

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nothing Thrown Out

Yesterday I wanted to make something with chives, to celebrate the fact that they're flourishing in the yard. (It's kind of strange that I'm used to thinking of chives as expensive herbs when bought fresh in the store, and common as freeze-dried herbs. Meanwhile, Calmer Half didn't even know what a chive was, and Housemate only thought of them as "darned weed." Thus does abundance blind us to value.)

So I set out to make Rosemary-Sage Burgers with Apple Slaw and Chive Mayo. Which would have been awesome, if I hadn't been interrupted right before putting the burgers on, and one thing after another that ended up being a nuke leftovers night.

Today, the rosemary-sage burgers were turned into meatballs by Calmer Half while Housemate and I were getting back from testing our newly rebuilt boat motor out on the lake. So, left with the apple slaw slowly oxidizing into an unappetizing brown, I figured the chive mayo can easily go on a sandwich or three, but the apples needed to be used tonight.

So, into Apple Bread they go! (with a half cup less sugar, a little molasses to make it equivalent of a brown sugar mix, and a little extra spice.)

I'm not perfect at making sure all food is eaten - every now and then I have to clean the fridge, too. But I make a darned good try!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Complacency blinds

We went out shooting last weekend. In my case, this often means I pack food for everyone, bake something for the farmer who is kind enough to let us use his land (Sourdough coffee cake with mixed berries and a graham cracker strudel crust this time), and generally putter around. Often, my round count for six hours out in the sun is under 30 shots - I find it more fun to watch other people shoot, and maybe try five shots with a new gun - or maybe just one shot.

Both Calmer Half and Oleg are very used to this pattern, though both keep encouraging me to try this pistol, try that pistol, try this revolver. Generally, I humor them, but rarely do I really actually enjoy shooting the gun.

Sunday, Oleg handed a SU-16 in .22 to me, while another photographer set up the tripod - this is probably going to end up in an ad somewhere down the road, if he got any good pictures. So I shrugged, knelt down, and considered the berm with its strewn clay pigeons through the scope. Carefully, mindful of the height of the scope above the barrel, I centered on the top of an orange clay, and waited for the small shakes of my arms and imperfections from breathing to settle into a pattern. Touch the trigger, and the gun pressed lightly into me as the clay exploded. I dropped the gun just a little, looking a foot down at the next clay, and started to work my way across the berm from left to right, removing every target with two magazines (I switched after a misfeed, suspecting the low-powered rounds in the first magazine were the problem). I wasn't doing so well, after over a year out of practice - it took two shots to clear a couple of them, and three for the second to the last as my concentration lapsed into noting my knees hurt, and the ground was cold and damp from a recent rain.

Calmer Half was very surprised at me, and was doing his darling best to make sure I knew he was very supportive, very happy at my participation, and very pleased at my skill. What also came across was that he was pretty startled I could kneel down and remove all the targets - but then, I haven't sat down and touched off seventy-five rounds of .22 with the aim of keeping them inside a dime since I moved to be with him. My poor CZ 452 has languished in the gun safe while all my male friends have tried to convince me that I should not regard handguns with loathing, and should train and carry one for defense. No wonder they've grown to expect I'm a bad shot and less than uninterested in guns at all.

I think I'll take my lovely little beauty out for the next trip, with a camp chair, and get in practice for pegging gophers in the garden at 50 yards. It's been too long since I practiced that particular form of meditation, emptying my mind of everything but the moment, the target, and the shot.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Two Pictures To Make You Smile

Be warned, some profanity ahead (I don't have photoshop skills before coffee to clean it up).

First, via Amanda Palmer - who is a rock star, and swears like it. (Link NSFW) She was getting ready to go on a flight to Christchurch for a concert when the earthquake hit - and as fan and people who were going to help with the concert checked in on her comments section, one left this picture of life going on. She included it in a later post, too.

Second, via Stephen Bodio's Querencia - which is an awesome group blog on falconry, hunting, herding dogs, and many other fascinating things. (Link is SFW; I was a little surprised at the cuss word.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I am Not Stylish

Brigid and Rev. Paul, being the classy people they are, have gotten an award for such on their blogs. For some reason (fascination with the horrible?), they've decided to tag me under the "pass it on" section. Myself, I rarely pass on such memes, but it would be impolite to brush off such polite curiosity.

Eh, so, ten things you don't know about me. Probably. Some of you do - The Alaskan Geek, over there on the sidebar, is an old housemate and wonderful friend, the kind that I helped move his library, what, five times after I moved out? And J at A Call to Wings helped me build my plane, and put up with random roadtrips...

1. I like finding 4-leaf clovers. Sitting outside, combing fingers gently through the ground cover and picking 4-leaf clovers is a relaxing activity for me.

2. I went to Space Camp in Huntsville as a teen. In fact, I went right after Christmas, and not only was my "class" not full, it was the only group there at the time. The schedule had lots of slack time built into accommodate shuffling large groups of kids, so we had lots more opportunities to explore the museum, the rocket garden, play on the simulator, and dive in the scuba tank than we were supposed to, as the counselors tried to find a way to keep us busy. To this day, when I think of museum, I first think of large, dark spaces with only a few display lights and emergency lights showing the corners of many fascinating things, running through with flashlights and a few voices in the dimness.

3. I started taking college classes in eighth grade. I absolutely hated my new math teacher, and he hated me right back. My grades took a nose dive, as did my interest in math or in staying in school. My parents put me into college math classes, and not only did I learn the algebra, I enjoyed the people. I completed an associate's in science the summer after my high school graduation, one subreq short of a history degree.

4. That wasn't my last run-in with math. At the engineering college, there was a tenured professor who declared on the first day of school, in freshman calculus, "I do not believe women should be engineers. If you are a woman, you will fail this class. You should leave, now." I still hold a grudge against him and the school that tenured him.

5. As a teen, I worked planting tobaccy and green peppers, topping, sprigging, and staking the tobaccy. One of my first hard lessons on economics occurred when the farmer and I eyed a boggy part of the field too muddy to get a tractor in, half-overtaken by weeds, and he explained with the numbers that by the time he paid me to finish it, it'd cost more than he could recoup. I understood, but it hurt to ride away on the tractor with a section of field still standing and the job not done.

6. I worked very hard for years to remove all traces of southern from my voice. Now that I'm living in Tennesssee, it's taking only a few months for dialect, grammar, and accent to return with a vengeance.

7. I really want to learn to ride a motorcycle, but I'm really wary of getting hurt when I dump it. So far, fear has strangled every opportunity I could take stillborn.

8. Whenever I take off from the runway, it never feels like I'm climbing - it feels like the world is suddenly falling away from me. All my worries, all my cares, all those little thoughts and regrets and to-do's drop out as the world is suddenly shrinking under the tires, and I'm left sitting in the sky with an altimeter merrily winding up the altitude as the VSI and engine temp work out their optimum balance.

9. One of the first guns I ever fired was a muzzleloader. I have no intention of firing one again, but I love them anyway.

10. I still cry when I hear taps.

Patience and progress

Finding a job requires constantly pushing for results in the form of finding likely jobs, creating cover letters, tweaking the resume, and submitting it over and over. Unfortunately, it also requires patience with the unringing phone. I'm not so good at that.

So, like a masochist, here I go again, finding another avenue requiring lots of hard work and a wait for reward, if any. By the popped blisters on both my thumbs, I have a small flower bed dug and planted to salad greens and beets - cool weather crops that can grow for a month and a half before I should plant the summer garden. I have two egg carton bottoms filled with soil and sitting in the sunlight, hopefully sprouting the seedlings I should start early and transplant.

Now I just need to water the seed bed lightly, and patiently wait. May I have a job before I have a home-grown salad...

Right, I'm going to go start a compost pile, go to the gym, thatch the yard, clean the house, read up on growing in non-subarctic regions, and shoot something. I'll try patience when I'm not busy.