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Archive for the ‘trying new things’ Category

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Carole King, I Feel the Earth Move

I am rarely sick, but when I am I find myself craving miso soup like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, I have never actually lived near miso soup, and as best I can tell I currently live almost an hour and a half away from my closest miso soup vendor. I have tried packets of instant miso soup with no satisfaction. I recently issued a desperate plea for help which was answered by M.R. Jarrell who pointed me to Alton Brown’s miso soup recipe and the dashi recipe required to keep it 100% from scratch. I made a couple of modifications to turn it into the miso soup I’ve always wanted but never had. All the variations I’ve had were good, but either lacked mushrooms or contained tofu or both.

Here is what I turned out with step-by-step instructions. I was able to find all the ingredients at the Good Food Store in Missoula, MT.

Dashi
Ingredients:
2 (4-inch) square pieces kombu
2 1/2 quarts water
1/2-ounce bonito flakes

Directions:
Put the kombu in a saucepan (at least 4-quart) or stock pot, cover with the water and soak for 30 minutes.

Heat on medium until the water reaches 150 to 160 degrees F and small bubbles appear around the sides of the pan, 9 to 10 minutes.

Remove the kombu from the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, 5 to 6 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the bonito flakes. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with muslin or several layers of cheesecloth.

Miso Soup
Ingredients:
2 quarts dashi
6 tablespoons dark or red miso
2 tablespoons light or white miso
4 scallions, thinly sliced
5-6 mushrooms thinly sliced
toasted nori strips

Directions:
If cool, heat the dashi over medium-high heat. If still hot, let the dashi cool. When the dashi reaches 100 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, ladle 1 cup into a small bowl.

Add the miso, and whisk until smooth. Do a good job here so your final product doesn’t come out lumpy.

Bring the remaining dashi to a bare simmer, approximately 10 minutes. Add the miso mixture and whisk to combine.

Return to a slight simmer, being careful not to boil the mixture. Add the mushrooms and scallions and cook for another minute or until heated through.

Add a few toasted nori strips to the bottom of each soup bowl.

Remove from the heat, ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

I found this miso soup to be much more delicious than any of the instant packets I’ve tried and comparable to any restaurant version. The main differences I found were that this one was slightly less salty than restaurant versions I’ve had, not necessarily a bad thing, and when I had a second bowl I noticed a fair number of lumps. I’m not sure if those would have been solved by more whisking before adding the miso mixture to the soup, or if those happened because the soup had cooled a bit. Overall, I am very happy with the final product, and I will definitely be making it again.

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Productivity

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT

I have been pretty busy lately, some of it in a productive way for which there is photographic evidence.

First off, a couple of weeks ago I made a loaf of a friend’s Sourdough Bread recipe from my batch of her Sourdough Starter recipe. The recipe is supposed to make a round, but I decided to try it in a loaf pan. It was quite tasty (as evidence by the fact that it was gone by the second day and I was the only one eating it), but it was a little short. I don’t know if the recipe can be doubled, but that would probably be about the right amount of dough to use in a standard loaf pan.
My First Sourdough Bread

Then another friend and I made a cake for a pirate party. Next time, I need to figure out how to add a crow’s nest, cannon and plank. The pirate figures were found at Rockin’ Rudy’s in Missoula, thank goodness. They were much harder to track down than I expected.
Pirate Cake

Finally, I gave canning my homemade salsa a second go. The first time I did this, I did not cook the salsa other than during the canning process so it was really more of a pico de gallo. Unfortunately, the solids rose to the top of each jar while the water sank to the bottom. Each jar was about half water. The second time, I cooked basically the same recipe significantly down before canning. Not surprisingly, I ended up with 6 jars the second time around instead of 12. Actually, it was 6 jars plus almost 2 cups that I didn’t can so really it would have been 7 or 8 jars. It is much tastier and has a better texture, though. And since I used the food processor instead of chopping everything by hand it went much quicker.
Canned Salsa vs. Canned Pico de Gallo

Now see there. I am not the lazy bum I may at first appear.

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Posting from: Missoula, MT
Listening to: The Merry Macs, Mairzy Doats

I am putting together my garden plans for the upcoming season and getting ready to start seeds indoors. I will be giving the Square Foot Gardening technique a whirl. I have all the materials purchased to build two 4X4 square foot gardens with trellises for vertical growing in the back row of each. I have modified a design I found in that book to make it as disassemblable as possible for easy winter storage. Hopefully, when I get to building the things, I will be able to post a material list, a line-item list of what it all cost, instructions, and step-by-step pictures of how to do it.

So far I have seeds for six varieties of heirloom tomatoes plus deals to trade for one more tomato variety and a lettuce variety. I also have mustard seed that I didn’t get planted last season. This year I would also like to add spinach, some potatoes, strawberries, more greens, possibly pickling cucumbers, maybe some green beans, turnips, carrots, maybe some onions, possibly corn, a small melon of some sort, possibly a pumpkin variety, and some more pepper varieties (I have two healthy habanero plants).

The tomato varieties I have are:
Siberian Tomato
Black from Tula Tomato
Silvery Fir Tree Tomato
Giant Syrian Tomato
Italian Heirloom Tomato
Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato

If anyone would like to trade seeds, please post a comment about what you have and/or what you want. This is an effort in increased self-sufficiency so I am really only interested in heirloom seeds. I am not interested in copyrighted or patented food that I can’t propogate.

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Posting from: Missoula, MT

A few days ago, a couple of babies were born at my friends’ place. Mother and babies are doing fine.
Flopsy and Her Kids

However, this necessitated the sudden acquisition of extra bedding for the kids. Bedding, in this case, is also yummy hay which all of the goats love. They couldn’t wait to get at it.
Snack Time

We had to get the goats off the truck in order to get the hay out of the back. Pulling them off proved ineffective because they would hop back on as quickly as they were chased off. We ended up with one person pulling them off while three of us threw snowballs at the goats already off the truck to keep them from hopping back on. Eventually we were able to get them going back to their pen.
Getting the Goats Out of the Way

After that, the hay was dislodged by anchoring it to a Jeep and then driving the truck out from underneath it.
Dislodging the Snack

We wrapped some fencing around the hay to slow the goats down a little bit. Flopsy, the new mom, is in the foreground eating some hay we pulled out for her since she is easily pushed aside by the other goats.
Flopsy in the Foreground

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Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Eastmountainsouth, Winter

I just want to turn my damned heater off. The fan runs nearly constantly. It does shut off occasionally, but by what algorithm it chooses to do so I have no knowledge. Here’s all I have in this rental house as a temperature control:

Temperature Out of Control

At my house in Arizona, I have a switch that let’s me choose Cool, Heat, Fan Only or Off altogether. When I use the heater in Arizona, if the temperature drops below my setting, the heater kicks on. If it is above my setting, the heater turns off. That is what I want here. I would be happy if it is warmer than 65 in here, if I’m getting that for free such as via the sun through my south windows.

However, my heater doesn’t seem to allow that. With the exception of the mysterious random shutoffs, if the house temperature is below my setting of 65, it blows hot air. If the house temperature is above 65 IT BLOWS COLD AIR. >:-( It is about 25 F outside right now. If I get too hot inside WHICH I WON’T!, I could just open the window for five minutes. Instead, I am sitting here at my dining room table with the fan blowing cold air on me unless I turn up the heat so it will blow hot air on me. This is a huge waste of energy and money. I just want to turn it off. Does anyone know what it would take for me to do this? I am in a rental house and don’t want to replace the thermostat if I don’t have to, but I am now seriously considering this.

Here’s what it looks like inside. Does this tell me anything useful?

Not Intel Inside

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Posting from: Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Kirsty MacColl, Titanic Days

I am listening to the great Kirsty MacColl today on the Montana Radio Cafe, 101.9 FM low power radio in the Flathead Valley or on the web (click the link). This is a non-commercial, sponsor- and listener-supported radio station run from the front porch of an old farmhouse in Creston, MT. I happened upon it in a Google search for “Montana community radio.”

I am trying out alternatives to satellite radio. My favorite XM station The Loft is not as good as it used to be, and it is downright attrocious some of the time which it never was before the XM Sirius merger. I am sticking with satellite for now because some of what I hear on The Loft is still excellent, and it is my only mobile excellent radio option at the moment. I am considering alternatives such as an iPod for my own music mixes and easy podcast listening, a Blackberry or something like that so I can listen to on-line radio on the go, or perhaps something like Slacker radio for in the car. It sucks paying just as much for much less enjoyment. However, for now, my satellite radio stays.

Sirius XM recently booted some channels temporarily to make room for four dedicated Christmas music stations plus one dedicated Hannakuh music station. Nonetheless, many of the other stations have been throwing holiday-themed tunes into their playlists from time to time which is fine. The Loft is one of those stations. But in addition to that, some of the specialty shows this week have been dedicated to holiday themes. Okay, fine. But today was the last straw for me. I had it with the hour-long Christmas Mix Tape program on The Loft after one and a half songs. I don’t mind some holiday music mixed in to the regular offerings, but why isn’t that enough? Why do we have to have continuous Christmas music on The Loft when there are already four dedicated Christmas music channels? I just want some normal music, instead of having holiday music shoved down my throat continuously. I miss the year when the Christmas special was Ryan Adams and all three of his albums that year. That was incredible! This was just incredibly aggravating.

So I took the opportunity to check out this fine local offering. I am enjoying it a lot so far. Here’s a little bit of their playlist from today:

4:41 PM Too Slim & The Taildraggers – She’s Not Comin’ Back
4:37 PM Charles Brown – ‘Round Midnight
4:35 PM Christmas Lullaby – Doc Watson
4:30 PM Robert Cray – Never Mattered Much
4:24 PM Kirsty MacColl – Titanic Days
4:23 PM What Child is This – Dave Grisman
4:18 PM Mike West – If I Had a Car
4:14 PM Kate Lynch – Everything
4:12 PM Joan Baez – Deck The Halls
4:09 PM Southern Culture On the Skids – Strangest Ways
4:04 PM Eric Clapton – (I) Get Lost
4:00 PM Reckless Kelly – What Would You Do
3:54 PM Blackie and the Rodeo Kings – Willie’s Diamond Joe
3:45 PM John Reischman & The Jaybirds – In the Darkest Hour
3:39 PM Sixth Sense – Light of My Mind
3:34 PM Etta James – The Little Drummer Boy
3:23 PM Loreena McKennitt – The Highwayman
3:17 PM Papa Chubby – Can You See Me
3:14 PM Up on the Housetop – The Jambalaya Cajun Band
3:07 PM Sue Foley – Absolution
3:03 PM Peter Ostroushko and Dean Magr – Musette in A minor
3:00 PM Dean Martin – The Things We Did Last Summer
2:57 PM k.d. lang – Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray
2:52 PM Chieftains – Il Est Ne [Ca Berger] [w Kate
2:44 PM Aynsley Lister – Erja Lyytinen – All The Time
2:43 PM Little Feat – Teenage Nervous Breakdown
2:36 PM Etta James – This Time of Year
2:33 PM Chuck Suchy – Money in this Town
2:31 PM Chad Fadley – Pike County Breakdown
2:27 PM Ramblin’ Jack Elliot – More Pretty Girls
2:23 PM Harry Connick Jr. – This Christmas
2:17 PM The Wild Magnolias – Coochie Molly
2:14 PM Roy Rogers & Norton Buffalo – So Much To Say and So Few Word
2:11 PM Joan Baez – Virgin Mary
2:05 PM Bob Marley and the Wailers – Concrete Jungle
2:00 PM Ray Charles – That Spirit of Christmas
1:56 PM Jack Gladstone – The Bear Who Stole the Chinook
1:54 PM Montana Rose – Some Other World
1:48 PM Gibson Brothers – We Won’t Dance Again
1:45 PM Candye Kane – Crazy Little Thing
1:42 PM Asleep At the Wheel – Swingin’ Drummer Boy
1:36 PM Tom Petty And The Heartbreaker – Southern Accent
1:33 PM Ginger Boatwright – Shine Your Light
1:28 PM Linda Ronstadt & Ann Savoy – I Can’t Get Over You
1:25 PM Sarah McLachlan – Song For A Winter’s Night
1:22 PM Sam Bush – Ozzie & Max
1:16 PM Bruce Springsteen With The Ses – Erie Canal
1:13 PM Ella Fitzgerald – Sleigh Ride
1:08 PM Joanna Connor – Big Girl Blues
1:04 PM Brenn Hill – Be Back In Texas
1:00 PM Greg Brown – Smell Of Coffee

I can’t wait to hear it post-Christmas. I may have to bake some cookies and head up there to knock on the door and say hi.

I have also been listening a bit today online to WTMD out of Towson University in Maryland.

Does anyone else have any favorite stations available on-line for free? I don’t see myself getting rid of satellite radio anytime soon, but given the sad state of programming in addition to Sirius XM’s financial woes in a tanking economy, it seems like a good time for me to diversify.

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Posting from: Missoula, MT
Listening to: Greg Laswell, Sing, Theresa Says

Sunday was my birthday. I’m 36. Other than feeling a little more square, it’s not much different from 35. As usual, year 35 upheld my tradition of the years of my life that are divisible by 5 being extremely good years. 16 and 21 sucked, but 15 and 20 were fabulous!

I got a lot done this year. I quit my job. I cashed out my 401K before the stock market tanked. I moved. I put my house on the market. I am so much happier. My main goal for this year is to be rid of my house, preferably by selling it. I have some other goals, but so long as that one is completed, I will be happy with my progress in my 36th year. Once that is done, I will be SUPER DUPER HAPPY. Anyone want to move to a small town near Tucson, AZ?

As for the celebrating, I put on my tiara and headed over to the Sunshine Station in Philipsburg where I had an excellent birthday breakfast. No better way to kick off another year of middle age than with bacon, I say.

Then I took J. and his daughter I. to Missoula so we could go get my birthday ice cream and picture. The plan was to bring back a pint for S. and C. who stayed behind. We did some loss-leader shopping at the grocery stores for their family, and then we got dinner at a nice little local Baja-style Mexican fast food chain called Taco Del Sol. Yummy fish tacos! Their hot sauce was not good, though. It tasted like hot vinegar- not much flavor other than the vinegar. Fortunately, I did not have that on my taco- only on my beans and rice which I couldn’t finish anyway because the taco filled me up nicely.

I think after that was our stop at a local Missoula independent record store called Ear Candy Music. You get your choice of vinyl or CDs. I didn’t find any Warren Zevon, but J. after talking with the guy who gave him a tour of the store found a song he has been trying to find for 7 or 8 years now. He special ordered the CD for his upcoming birthday. Very cool. The record store guy was knowledgeable, competent, friendly, helpful and everything you could possibly hope for in a person in a service job. We loved him for a little while. And after that little while, we have resented him for making us take notice of every sub-standard service experience we have had since then.

After all of this, we were off to what was the whole point of the trip. However, I was a bit bummed for these pansy-ass Montanans put a kink in my birthday plans- and not in the fun, spanky way. 😡

I made the treacherous winter journey from Philipsburg to Missoula and back for one reason and one reason only: I was going to have my picture taken on my birthday which is also the first day of winter eating ice cream outdoors at Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula and send it back to my friends in Arizona who thought I would hate the cold here and be on my way back at the first sign of winter.

Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula

Ice cream in Montana? Outdoors? In the winter? Can you do that? I went to the website and checked. They are open, it says! Every day of the year except Christmas through New Years. Great! Let’s go!

But when we got there, they were closed. Why? A death in the family? That would be excusable. But were they on medication? Schizophrenic? Do they have leftover baggage from their childhood that prevents them from functioning? These are things which I know from Dmitri the Lover are not good excuses. Especially since there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. Believe it or not, I am a complete catch!

Ahem. Anyway…

We parked and approached the building to investigate further. There was a sign in the window. They are closed because… WAIT. WHAT?

Closed???  Pansies!

THE HELL!!! Did they just suddenly discover this year after 13 years in business that it gets COLD in Montana in the winter? Flying Titty-Fucking Spaghetti Monster! I cannot fucking believe this!

Wait, there’s a phone number on the sign. It says to call in case of ice cream emergencies. I am thirty-six years old and drove up hill both ways in the snow in bare feet to Missoula for ice cream on my birthday. HELL YES THIS IS AN ICE CREAM EMERGENCY! But alas, I only got voice mail. I did, in fact, leave a message and put them on alert that we will be having words in person in January. 😡

I also sent off a message via their contact page informing them of my birthday unhappiness. In response, a nice person named Charlie has corrected the information on the web page, and he is sending me an ice cream gift card. That was very nice.

We swung by the Good Food Store in Missoula after the No Ice Cream Debacle and picked up a couple of pints- including some Big Dipper pints- and ate ice cream in the cafe at the store. I also got myself some birthday flowers which are gorgeous and holding up nicely in their vase at home.

Once we got home to Pburg, we stopped in at the Sunshine Station where I had a birthday drink before I went home.

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