(Somewhat scattered) Solstice!

Wow, it’s been hard to drag myself back to picture-editing and recapping our travels now that we’re back in the almost-frosty embrace of winter and all the rushing around that season brings!  I have absolutely nothing to report on the missing entries (and photos) for the rest of our trip, but I feel the need to point out that I have been doing other stuff.  My apologies in advance for the lack of pictures, and the abundance of side-notes via asterisk.  What can I say?  It’s that time of year.

Despite my previous statement, pictures were, in fact, edited, and to my surprise I think I actually got my Christmas cards out not only in time, but in record time this year.  (Who knew?  Panic is a great motivator!)

Haven’t been doing much cookie- or cake-baking, aside from a lone dabbling in disappointingly-dry gingerbread, but I have been canoodling in the kitchen.  Found a sandwich bread recipe that The Boy (AKA He Who Judges Bread Most Severely) actually really liked… and then I lost it.  I tried making a different recipe (one with milk in, for the much sought-after “tender crumb”) and it was an abysmal failure.  I’m going to try again today with this one and hope the results are similar to my success loaf (the ingredient list sure is…I think?).  In either case, crappy or not, there will be bread to accompany tonight’s soup!

I had declared sometime early in December that, for as long as I remembered anyway, I was declaring winter the Season of Weekly Soups.  This is partly because, as you may know, I love soup.  The other reason for this, however, is just to encourage me to bake bread more regularly.*

I kicked it off with chunky chicken rice, and this week I’m pulling out some of the potato leek I’d made (en mass) and frozen back when we were up to our ears in leeks from the CSA.  Not entirely sure what I’ll do the following week when The Boy will be up in his hometown for a bit and I’ll be by myself.  Might be a good time to test-drive a slow-cooker soup recipe.  I grabbed a copy of Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook from the library, and am interested to see if it can introduce me to more slow-cooking variety.  I heart my slow cooker, but there’s a limit to how many stews I want to be serving in a week.

* Although there are many breads that I make that The Boy is a fan of, our bread-eating seems to go through waves.  If there is a stretch of long weekend or other brunchable days, we’ll go through a fair amount in breakfast toasts.  Occasionally, The Boy will be in a toast-as-evening-snack mood for a few days.  Aside from that, however, we really don’t seem to eat much bread.  (We’re not sandwich makers; when I bring a lunch to work, especially in the winter, it’s going to be something heated.)

So I figure at least this way I’ll have a good reason to bake something once a week (I’m excited to try these oatmeal rolls one week!) and if it increases our general bread consumption, awesome!  If not, well… at least I’ll have put in a goodly effort to oust commercial breads from our house (#17).

Having said that, of course, I realize that when I made sliders for dinner last night (loosely based on this recipe and what I had in the fridge; mine had less cracker and parsley, and more onion and jalepeno), I could have baked up mini-buns for them.  And didn’t.  But I had a whole bag in the freezer that needed eating!  That makes it okay right?

About the sliders: I don’t know what is wrong with me that we don’t home-make our burgers more often.  Even though you couldn’t taste any heat from the jalepenos, it didn’t matter.  Those sliders were delicious.  So tender!  I was excited to try them as they were the first of the ground beef packages we’d bought from our beef farmer and I don’t know if it’s just the quality of the beef, or the “made with love” home-made-ness or what, but it doesn’t really matter.  The moral of the story?  Make yourself some sliders from scratch.  Totally worth it, super cute, and uber delicious.

Also on the delicious front, after I realized that I’d made myself too much yoghourt to finish before we head to my parents’ for Christmas, I figured it was a good time to christen my “new” ice cream maker**.  So I made some chocolate fro-yo.  I used less sugar than the recipe called for, and the sour tang from the yoghourt is quite noticeable in the finished product.  I’ve been trying to decide if I would want to mask it with more sugar, or if I like it this way.

** It is, of course, not actually a new ice cream maker, but merely another one that we found this summer, whilst thrifting.  It’s by the same manufacturer as my previous beloved ice cream maker — and in fact has the same awesome warnings on the bucket — but this one has a slightly different handle and lid and, in the words of The Boy, isn’t pink.  (It’s a boring-er white.)  At his suggestion, I gave my pink one to a friend, and kept the white one.  Don’t tell him, but I kind of miss my cute, pink ice cream maker.  This new one feels… kind of impersonal.  Ah well.

More on the cultured foodstuffs front: I’ve been playing around with feeding for Spongebob.  (Yes!  He survived our month-long absence!)  I still have a portion of him in the fridge that I feed weekly, but I’ve also spawned a new jar that I’ve been feeding every other day, that just sits out on the counter.  I was inspired by this post, although I’m pretty sure our house is cold enough that I can get away with my slightly rarer feedings.  I’ve been feeding The New Bob wheat flour, which wasn’t the best idea because now I can’t tell from the smell how much of the difference is the grain, and how much is the activity of the different yeasts.  It definitely smells different though.

One of the main reasons I didn’t opt for this method of feeding back when Anna first gifted me with sponge was that I felt bad about throwing out a goodly portion every time I fed him.  With my new intention of baking at-least-weekly, however, it shouldn’t be too hard to “throw out” some sponge into whatever bread is going on that week.  We’ll see how that works out!

Okay, I think that pretty much catches us up.  I had the house decorated for Christmas three days after we got back and have surprised myself by actually being pretty much done with presents (again: a new record for me!).  I’ve been doing a little more sewing in the evenings (can never have too many gift bags, right?) and am feeling pretty good about this year’s close.

Since tonight is the Yule, I’m going to try out one of Carley’s spice sachets for apple cider and, in an attempt to coax the thing to fruit, am going to wassail our poor pear tree with it as well.  (I know, I know, it’s a pear, not an apple.  I’m counting on the intention here.)  I’ve already put in the request with The Boy for a fire tonight, the bird feeders are full (finally!) and the last of my greenery is hung out.  I’m a little afraid to state that everything is “done” but… this is definitely one of my most prepared holiday seasons thus far.  So weird with that feeling that winter hasn’t even started here.  I’m trying to resign myself to a green Christmas.

Christmas card 2011

Happy solstice everyone!  May the light and warmth whoosh back into your homes and hearths as the world slowly brightens and wakes!

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