Sheared Bliss


Holy Grail of Kale
November 22, 2010, 12:07 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , , , ,

We’ve been getting a lot of kale from the CSA lately.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like kale.  It’s delicious and nutritious, but . . . well, it’s kale and there’s only so much of it that I can eat sauteed over brown rice.  It’s good with Thai peanut sauce, but the coconut milk and peanut butter might just negate the nutritional benefits of the kale.  Luckily, I’ve discovered my new favorite way to eat kale which is maybe a smidgen healthier.

Ingredients:

  • A bunch of kale – green, purple, whatever you’ve got
  • Some diced onion, shallot, garlic, whatever you’ve got
  • Oven roasted beets – peel, dice, toss with olive oil and salt and bake at 450º until tender.
  • A couple of handfuls of toasted pecans
  • Chèvre, feta, or other soft, strong cheese
  • Olive oil

Sauté the onion, shallot, garlic, whatever in the olive oil until they soften and start to turn golden.  Add the kale and sauté until it starts to wilt.  Add the beets and pecans and stir until everything is combined and warmed through.  At the very end, add the cheese and stir until it just starts to melt.  Serve as a side or over rice as a main course.

It’s not a very photogenic dish, but it’s soooo yummy.  Trust me, this is what kale wants to be when it grows up.

I’m eating mine with spaghetti squash made from this recipe which, for the record, is what spaghetti squash wants to be when it grows up.



Tub o’ Lard
November 15, 2010, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Food, History, Museum | Tags: , , , , , , ,

No, really.  See?

The museum had 150 pounds of pork fat from the pigs that were butchered earlier this year.

PioneerA and I spent last Friday rendering some of it into lard and managed to get through an entire box – about 50 pounds.

First we ground the fat – with the help of about 100 school children who were at the museum for a field trip.  All together now, “EEEWWWW, pig fat!!!”

Insert soundtrack of Sweeney Todd here.

Then we cooked it slowly, stirring frequently while the fat melted off of all of the bits of skin and meat.

If we had more time, we would have cooked it until all of the fat was melted and the cracklings were crispy.  As it was, we cooked it all day and strained off everything that had rendered by quitting time.

Not bad, if I do say so myself.  This year’s pigs were allowed to get a little older and fatter before butchering than last year’s pigs so we had better luck making lard this time than we did at Pork and Beans Day back in January.



Walking with the Dead

Last weekend was the Victorian Halloween event at the museum and the second annual Walking with the Dead tour.  I ended up writing most of the script this year since PioneerJ (my usual partner in crime) was at home recovering from a run-in with a mule.

Ms. Celery and I were tour guides.

CodeMonkey reprised his role as a crazed Ichabod Crane.

NurseK played a grieving daughter trying to make contact with her papa in the afterlife and PioneerA portrayed the medium who was helping her draw aside the veil during a spiritualist seance.  FarmerV gave a lecture and demonstration on postmortem photography.  Spooky atmosphere was provided by PioneerV as an invisible, but noisy ghost, BlacksmithC as an unscrupulous gravedigger, and BlacksmithS as an animate scarecrow.

The whole thing went really well and I thought it would be fun to share a bit of the script here.  In light of a recent news item, this bit seemed appropriate.

A shift in burial customs that occurred during the Victorian era may have been partly responsible for people’s need to connect with their deceased loved ones.  Previously, many burials had occurred in family burial plots on land owned by the family.  As more and more people moved to cities during the Victorian era, this became increasingly impractical.  In cities, the dead were buried in centralized cemeteries.  Even in a relatively small city like Denver, there were three cemeteries by 1890.  Leaving their loved ones’ remains in the care of strangers made some people understandably nervous.  Graves that were in a public cemetery rather than a family burial plot might go unattended or worse – they might attract the attention of grave robbers looking for valuables to pawn or fresh bodies to sell to medical schools for anatomy lessons.  Residents of Denver who had relatives buried in the City Cemetery had yet another possibility to worry about.  The City Cemetery, officially called Mount Pleasant, was founded in 1859.  There were separate sections for various religious, ethnic, and community groups, but large number of the corpses interred there were those of paupers or criminals.  By 1890, the cemetery was seldom used and had fallen into disrepair.  The city decided to turn the cemetery into a park and families were given 90 days to remove the remains of their deceased relatives for reburial elsewhere.  By 1893, the majority of the bodies remained unclaimed so the city contracted with an undertaker named McGovern to remove the remaining bodies.  McGovern was to dig up each body, place it in a new coffin, and remove it to the Riverside Cemetery.  For this he was to be paid $1.90 per body.  McGovern was not a particularly scrupulous man and he quickly realized that by using child sized coffins and dividing the bodies into several pieces he could triple his profit.  Of course, this process was a little messy and body parts and bones were strewn everywhere.  A crowd gathered to watch and souvenir hunters actually looted the graves and coffins.  There was a public outcry and the city put a stop to McGovern’s work.  The city built a fence to keep the public away from the open graves but never hired another undertaker to finish the job.  Eventually the graves were filled in and the land was turned into Cheesman Park.  An estimated 2,000 bodies remain buried in the park to this day.

I hope everyone had a creepy Halloween!



When the going gets tough . . .
November 1, 2010, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Baking, Food | Tags: , , , , ,

Wow.  I’m not really sure where October went.  Did any of you see a speeding month zoom past you?  Actually, now that I think about it, it was really just the last week or two of October that went past like a snowball rolling down the hill.  I had an intense week of training at work.  On top of that, I was pretty heavily involved in the Halloween program at the museum (more on that later after MommaCodeMonkey sends me some pictures).

Well, you know what they say.  When the going gets tough, the tough get baking!

Gluten Free Orange Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Adapted from Easy Gluten-Free Baking by Elizabeth Barbone

  • 1 1/4 cups white rice flour
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • zest of 6 clementines
  • juice of 12 clementines (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Whisk together all dry ingredients.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and zest.  Add half of the dry ingredients.  Add half of the juice.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and juice.  Mix batter for 1 minute.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin tins lined with muffin papers.
  6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  7. Cool thoroughly and frost with chocolate buttercream.

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Sift together dry ingredients.
  2. Cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add dry ingredients and beat until combined in a stiff paste.  Slowly add in milk and vanilla and beat until smooth, fluffy, and creamy.

Pardon me while I go lapse into a sugar coma now.