Peeking through the Clouds
I wandered out to find a good spot to shoot the moon rise with My Mom and an old neighbor. The first place that came to mind was a dud. The second however turned out perfectly. Except the fact that I had forgoteen to bring My tripod. Even so, I broke out the 70-200mm and applied a 2x multiplier, so I was shooting at 140-400mm, on a cropped image sensor. Which is roughly 220-600mm in terms of a 35mm camera. Not something I would suggest in a hand-held scenerio. It was VERY hard to get a shot that wasn’t terribly blurry. With all that zoom range, I still had to crop all of the images here, I think You can only get good close, detailed shots of the moon with a telescope.. Unlike most people, we went out the day after the moon was full. Which was kind of stupid, since the day before was clear and the day I was shooting on was cloudy! We waited, missing the actual rising from the horizon, due to the clouds. After more waiting, there were a couple of gaps that revealed our lovely Luna. Here are all five of the 131 pictures I took, that weren’t a pathetic blur. Next time, I will not forget a tripod…
Cooking in the Twilight Hours
I often find Myself cooking between two and four in the morning. Not sure why, but this is when the proliferation of stir-fried creations tends to happen. In this case, a very simple set of ingredients lead to yet another delicious meal. Chicken in a salty caramel sauce, lightly fried veggies, caramelized onions and peppercorn rice. The chicken is a bit of a rip on a Vietnamese style Ga Kho, or as most of us call it, hot and spicy chicken. I simply omitted the fish sauce, lemongrass and ginger instead using seasoned salt. The rice was quite nice. It’s subtle, like sushi rice, until You bite on a peppercorn. If You use white pepper, it will be quite spicy. Other varieties emit a mild peppery flavor, but most of the bite dissipates while cooking. The onions took Me three hours to get to that amazingly sweet, gooey texture. If You skip that part however, this meal can be prepared and cooked in thirty to fourty-five minutes. Even faster if You make the chicken in one pan and the veggies in another.
For starters, chop up 2 medium to large onions and cook over low heat until caramalized and set aside. Don’t worry if it looks like a lot when You start, they will be dramatically reduced as You cook. This can take hours, but it is so worth it.
In Your rice cooker, or pot, add 1 cup of rice and 1 tbsp whole peppercorns, mix until the pepper is evenly dispersed. Then add 1.5 cups of water and 1 tsp of rice vinegar. Mix thoroughly and cook until the rice has reached Your desired texture.
While the rice is cooking, thinly slice a medium sized carrot and fry over medium heat to Your liking and remove from the pan. Then, stir fry 1 cup of brocolli with 1 cloves worth of minced garlic and a splash of soy sauce. Once finished, remove from the pan and wipe it clean.
Now, over high heat, stir fry 2 chopped up chicken thighs with 1 tsp rice vinegar, half a tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt and 2 tbsp(or more!) of brown sugar. Cook until You have a thick brown caramel glaze and You are done. Enjoy!
Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.
First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.
February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.
I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.
Ramen, Lovely Ramen
United Noodles is a bit of a back alley grocery store. Specializing in foods from nearly all corners of asia, they are one of the oldest asian grocers in the Twin Cities. Within this store is another store, a small deli. Called Uni Deli, this place has an extremely short menu, but that is okay, because one of the eight things listed for You to have served hot and delicious is Tonkatsu Ramen. Oh My, I had not been there in about a year and My taste buds have been blown away again. How do I forget to keep going back for more? If You go there and do not order tonkatsu, You are missing out. Order it spicy, simply the best.
We found this gorgeous spider after a hike in the northern woods of Wisconsin this weekend. I think it is some variety of Orb Weaver, but I am not certain. The green on the spider’s back matches the fungus found on many trees and rocks in the region. Body length was nearly an inch. It was one awesome looking little creature.
I have expanded the ‘tropical Minnesotan attic jungle’ again. I bought six new dwarf citrus trees from Four Winds Growers out in California. I probably shouldn’t have ordered them during the hottest time of the year thus far. The two younger trees arrived looking good. Some of the others seem to have suffered from the heat of being trapped in an unventilated box, inside a baking semi trailer for two and a half days. The little ones are a Valencia orange and a new Kieffer lime to replace My old one that had an unbeatable scale infestation. I aquired a second Improved Meyer lemon tree as well.
Due to many favorable reviews around the web, I also opted to get an Oroblanco grapefruit tree. They don’t get pink/red, but are said to be very pot friendly and unlike most citrus, doesn’t need a lot of summer heat to sweeten the fruit. Sounds like a no brianer to Me.
Then there is the Gold Nugget mandarin orange tree. Which is very bushy and compact, but has been in a state of perpetual drooping since it got here. It doesn’t appear to be dying, but has yet to show Me any signs of changing it’s current mood.
Rounding out the order is a Mexican Sweet lime tree, which does not look the greatest either. All of the most recently grown leaves are curled up really tightly. I am assuming for now that it was heat during shipping that caused these little trees to look so glum. They have been here for 10 days now and none of them look like they are going to die. Maybe they will bounce back after this 90+ degree weather passes. Hopefully I can take better care of these trees than I have with some of My older ones. Having ordered trees from the same grower a couple of years ago and gaining My own growing experience over the last few years, I believe that things should be ok. So long as I can keep the scale away from them.
This Year was My second mandarin orange harvest. Eleven times more fruit than last year’s haul, which was one orange. The tree that gave Me that orange, gave three this year, in an escalating size range of two, to nearly four inches in diameter. They were VERY sweet and not particularly acidic. The largest one however was quite bland in flavor, I think I picked it too late? My other satsuma tree gave Me eight little oranges. I picked them in varying lengths of time after turning bright orange. Today, I picked the last five, about a month later than I think I should have. Quite a day, plucking fresh oranges from a tree when it is 7 degrees(F) outside..
The fruits from this tree were far more acidic and powerful in flavor, but not as sweet as the ones from it’s sister. They are the same age and from the same source, but I planted them in very different soil mixtures, to see what would work better. I can only assume that this, is what caused such dramatic variation in the experience delivered to My taste buds.
Having also plucked the last meyer lemon, there is just one fruit left growing in My tropical Minnesotan attic jungle. It is the first grapefruit from My nearly six year old ruby red tree.
There is nothing like freshly harvested food. It has been great to experience the cycle of these trees and of course, reap the rewards! I can’t wait to see what I get next year.
Back for More? I Guess!
A while back, I started buying fruit trees. It started with a Dwarf Fig, Carmine Jewel Cherry and some Blueberries. Rapidly followed by a plethora of Citrus varieties! This being Minnesota, I put the Cherry and Blueberry Plants in the ground and planted everything else in pots to bring in for the winter. Oddly enough, winter never REALLY showed up this year, which left my Cherry and Blueberries exposed. Sadly, they were eaten down to stubs at ground level by some ravenous rabbit-like creature! Not sure if they will grow back, but for fledgeling deciduous trees/shrubs in this kind of winter, I’m not sure they would take anyways… Time will tell I guess.
On the other hand, thus far, the Fig tree has defied deaths calling. Indoors, amongst the Citrus trees. My neighbors probably think that I’m growing other things in the attic from the artificial sun that’s beaming out of all the windows in the evenings.
For now there are 10 Citrus trees in My ‘Tropical Minnesotan Attic Jungle’ . 2 Keiffer Lime trees that are 2 and 4 years old, the older of which is now flowering for the first time. 2 Moro Blood Orange Trees which are also 2 and 4 years old. 2 and 3 year Mexican Sweet Limes, that, I’m not doing justice to, they’re yellowing and sad looking. 2, 5 year old Owari Satsuma Mandarins, one of which gave Me My very 1st orange this past December!
There is also a 3rd year Meyer Lemon that is growing 9 little lemons for the 1st time, unlike all the others, the lemon gives TWICE a year, instead of just once.. I’m struggling a bit keeping the lemon tree happy tho. Lastly is the 5 year old Ruby Red Grapefruit tree, which I almost slayed with water when I got it..
I swear, CITRUS TREES HATE WATER!! I learned this as I watched My beloved grapefruit tree drop 2/3rds to 3/4ths of it’s leaves before I re-potted it in a better draining soil mix. It’s bouncing back and is currently covered with wonderfully aromatic blossoms.
December to February is Bloom season for all citrus that I’m aware of, and what a great time to have an indoor forest! The house is graced with a really nice conglomerate of scents from the numerous varieties of fruits being spawned.
I’ve certainly got more trees than I need, but I’ll be acquiring more this spring! I plan on getting Trovita Oranges and Oroblanco Grapefruits. Hopefully, that will satiate My ‘need’ for citrus trees. .. … Because I feel the ‘need’ to dive into nut trees, cherry trees, apple trees and, well, clearly I need to move out of the city!