Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ah....sweet relief

Finally the water came and we can look forward to no more dust across the way.

Dulce de Calabaza

About a week ago a friend of ours, who sells pumpkins in all the western states, gave us two giant pumpkins and one for eating. Mind you, I've never been one to cook my own pumpkin for pumpkin pie, etc. But the story he told us intrigued me and I did a little research on it. He said this particular variety of pumpkin was selling very well due to the Hispanic market. Calabaza is pumpkin in spanish. It turns out, it's a specialty item that they use to make candy and treats. The flesh on the Calabaza is finer and creamier than your run of the mill pumpkin/jack o lantern, and since I got mine for free (they normally sell for about $25) I decided to take a "culinary adventure". For no other reason than that I really love dulce de leche, I decided to try dulce de Calabaza! (which by the way, was the most common use for calabaza)
I perused many web pages with recipes for dulce de calabaza.....every one basically similar, but a tad different from the next. Following the intructions, I hacked and carved my way thru the calabaza. I needed 1x1 1/2" pieces and some unrefined cane sugar. I found the sugar at the local market in the mexican food section. Some of the recipes said you could substitute regular brown sugar....don't try that, those turned out...well, icky! To make a long story have to really LOVE this stuff for all the effort it takes to make it. I soaked the pieces overnight in lime water, then in the morning, drain/rinse, drain/rinse, repeat. Cook at a boil for 5 mins. Let drain for 1 hour, then after coating them with a "slurry" of water dampened sugar, I placed them in a glass 9x13.
Well, the calabaza begins to 'weep' and the sugar coating gets watery...hmmmm. Didn't look too appetizing at this point :/. Into a 300 degree oven for 3 hours they go. Surprisingly, they looked better as they baked. They come out a dark caramel color, with the same caramel flavor mixed with an undertone of....what else? .....pumpkin. Let them air dry on parchment and then roll in more sugar. Either I did something wrong, or the appeal of these escapes me. They are sweet, sweet, sweet. Will I ever make these again? Nuh uh.
On the flip side, I wanted to use the remainder of the calabaza on a savory dish. I chose Pastelon de Calabaza, or "savory pumpkin pie". The dish is similar to what we are familiar with as hamburger pie, only the hamburger is prepared mexican style with chili, olives, tomatoes, etc. The recipe says to mash the cooked calabaza like you would potatoes and layer it on the bottom of a 9x13, with the hamb. combo in the middle and more calabaza on the top with cheddar cheese. I only got as far as the mashed calabaza part and how you have to add an egg and flour to "improve the texture". I did as instructed and when I asked my taste tester (Les) what he thought of the mashed calabaza....I got a thumbs down. Sigh. No sense wasting a pound of hamburger!
The cows and goats sure do like mashed calabaza though!! They all have orange smiles.

Warmin' up block at a time

Every Thursday morning at Bethany Home, Mom and I participate in the "crochet activity". They serve coffee at 10am and then when coffee is finished and all the ladies are sitting at the tables yet; it's a perfect opportunity to bring out the crochet hooks and yarn. Someone donated the yard from an unfinished project. In order to put a purpose to the project it was decided that the finished afghan would be donated to Warm Up America. WUA is a nonprofit which distributes knit or crochet afghans to those in need. You can check it out at . It's a fun project and I enjoy very much sitting and crocheting with "the ladies".

Friday, October 24, 2008

Here a chick there a chick everywhere a chick chick

One day after arriving home from Chicago, Les and I noticed that we were missing a chicken :/. We knew we had seen her once since we'd been home, but not lately. Rogue Chicken and Rooster were around, but not the pretty Red Hen. I think most of you know about Rogue Chicken and how she just showed up at our house one day about 4-5 years ago. Rooster is her son, and Red Hen her daughter. They're a scrappy bunch of chickens and have managed to survive on their own without much help from us! Every now and then when the weather gets colder, we throw some cracked corn out...puts a little fat on them and keeps them warm. So, back to Red Hen. She had gone missing and we feared the worst for her....coyotes abound around here, and a chicken really needs to pay attention to stay alive. Ah well, one down, two still around. Then, a couple of days ago...there she was, with a couple little surprises at her side! Awwwwwww......aren't they cute?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Visit to Chicagoland

Click to play Chicago 2008
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow
Well, the pictures pretty much say it all :) We had a wonderful time in the Chicago area with Jerry and Bernice. Since we were not able to be at James' baptism last fall, we thought it only fitting that we could make it for his first birthday. Providentially, Jerry and Bernice's new house also closed the week before we arrived and we were able to be a bit of help in moving and painting. I DO love to paint! Throw in some fun days spent at Starved Rock Park and the new Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI., not to mention a little antiquing, and it was a perfect vacation. Didn't want to come home! Thank you for the wonderful time Jerry and Bernice :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dust makes a beautiful sunset

Well, after returning home from Chicago last night, we were unpleasantly surprised to find that the "work" across the road STILL was not complete! Ugh! If had just gotten worse.At one point it was so thick with dust that our light sensor controlled yard light lit up!! About the only good thing you can say about it all is that it does make for a beautiful sunset. Hopefully they will finish by Saturday, when the weather prediction is for RAIN...yippee!!! I hope it's a downpour.